Can planets drift through space without a star to orbit? Astronomers have recently discovered a “wandering” planet with no star system to call its own. This discovery has led astronomers to believe that free-floating planets may be a more common occurrence than originally speculated.
The “orphaned” planet was named CFBDSIR2149, and is about 100 light years away from Earth. It is likely a gas planet that is four to seven times the size of Jupiter. A research team led by astronomer Philippe Delorme of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France discovered the roaming planet, and it stands to question some assumptions of modern astronomy.
A likely scenario of how CFBDSIR2149 became abandoned was that it was booted out of its solar system as the planet was forming. This event doomed the planet to drift throughout the vacuum of space. “If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space,” said Delorme.
There is still some question of if this lonely planet is indeed a planet. Some astronomers and researchers feel that CFBDSIR2149 could be a brown dwarf. It could be in the early stages of becoming a star but is too small to trigger the internal nuclear fusion reactions required to become a fully formed star.
But the existence of a “rogue” planet is quickly becoming the status quo. Researchers and astronomers are finding that these renegade planets now outnumber traditional or “normal” planets. A study in 2011 indicated that almost 50% of newly discovered planets in the Milky Way are found without host stars.