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Starless Planet Discovered

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 10:24AM

Try to imagine a world that knows only night and the unabated, but distant stars filling its sky. Such worlds without a partner-star have been theorized to exist but finding them is very difficult, for multiple reasons. However, researchers at the University of Montreal with data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have found one.

The most obvious reason these planets are hard to find is that there is nothing to illuminate them, at least nothing that would do so as well as sun. However, multiple potential homeless planets have been catalogued, but there is not enough information to prove they are planets and not just brown stars; failed stars. Luckily this planet, CFBDSIR2149, does provide us with that information, including its age of between 50 and 120 million years, a mass four to seven times that of Jupiter, and a temperature of 400 ºC. The reason we can get this information, especially its age, is that it is apparently traveling with a group of stars (though they are not gravitationally linked to the planet, like the Earth is to the Sun).

Sadly that information is not enough to answer the obvious question: how is it homeless? Did the planet form on its own or was it ejected from a solar system? Only further observations may be able to determine that.

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Guest comment
Joe Chafets on November 15, 2012 12:09PM
Can I book vacation time there? How is the weather in August? Do they have baseball?
Guest comment
Michael on November 15, 2012 11:52AM
How does this planet manage a surface temperature of 400*C without a host star to heat it? Forgive me if I'm being ignorant, I just don't get it.
Guest comment
Charlie on November 15, 2012 12:10PM
If the planet is large enough, its gravity could maintain a thick atmosphere. That, coupled with geothermal heat from core cooling or even radioactive decay could create and maintain a hot surface temperature despite the lack of a star.
Guest comment
johnqpublic on November 15, 2012 12:10PM
It has a molten core with a thin mantle maybe?
Guest comment
Andre on November 15, 2012 12:11PM
that is the same thing that first popped into my head as well, so your ignorance has company. maybe though being so young, that temperature is residual to when it was first born. Its probably a piece of broken-off star material burned-out and is still cooling off.
Guest comment
David Ridge on November 15, 2012 12:01PM
Uh, How was this planet detected when it did not have a sun, host star, to have its light reflected from?
Guest comment
eg on November 15, 2012 12:18PM
Very carefully...
Guest comment
Mordecai-Mark Mac Low on November 15, 2012 12:17PM
Since it has a mass of 4-7 Jupiter masses, it's certainly a gas giant, not a rocky planet. It is still cooling from its formation; even Jupiter still emits more energy than it absorbs because of that, at an age 45 times as large. Any object emits blackbody (heat) radiation; at 400 K that is in near to mid IR, easily visible to modern detectors (even Jupiter at 125K shines in the mid IR).
venomoc on November 16, 2012 04:58AM
lol @ the preceding comments

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