'Rogue planet' found wandering through space
Canada-France-Hawaii telescope offers insights into rare celestial object
Posted: Nov 14, 2012 2:59 PM ET
Last Updated: Nov 15, 2012 8:27 AM ET
A rogue planet wandering through the cosmos apparently without a star to orbit has been identified by an international team using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
It's the first time astronomers have been able to look closely at planets of its kind without getting interference from intense nearby light.
"These objects are important, as they can either help us understand more about how planets may be ejected from planetary systems, or how very light objects can arise from the star formation process," Philippe Delorme, a University of Grenoble, France, astronomer who was lead writer on the project
- CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks will interview co-author Jonathan Gagné Saturday, Nov. 17.
"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."
Possible examples of free-floating planets have been found and identified, but it hasn't been possible to determine much about them.
In this case, however, the object — dubbed CFBDSIR2149 — seems to be part of a nearby stream of young stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group.
"Looking for planets around their stars is akin to studying a firefly sitting one centimetre away from a distant, powerful car headlight," said Delorme.
"This nearby free-floating object offered the opportunity to study the firefly in detail without the dazzling lights of the car messing everything up."
Able to make inferences
Researchers found it in observations from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and harnessed the power of European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to examine it more closely.
Because it's in motion with other planets, astronomers have been able to make inferences about its age and properties.
The Canadians on the project included study co-authors Etienne Artigau and Jonathan Gagné of the University of Montreal.
"We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood," Artigau told the BBC.
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope is operated by the National Research Council of Canada, the Institut National des Science de l'Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) of France, and the University of Hawaii.
Top News Headlines
- Greg Weston: Senate scandal may be Harper's worst hour
- The widening Senate scandal that the prime minister flippantly tried to dismiss as a 'distraction' just days ago has instead become arguably Stephen Harper's worst hour. more »
- Washington bridge collapse not Alberta trucker's fault, wife says
- The wife of the trucker implicated in Thursday's collapse of a bridge in Washington State that serves tens of thousands of commuters daily says her husband is not responsible for the incident. more »
- Canada ranks 3rd last in paid vacations
- Canada ranks third last among economically advanced countries in the amount of paid vacation time it guarantees its workers, a new U.S. study indicates. more »
- Canadian forecasters warn of active hurricane season
- Canadian forecasters are warning warmer-than-average ocean waters and the lack of an El Nino warming of the central Pacific Ocean will contribute to an "active" hurricane season this year. more »
Latest Technology & Science News Headlines
- U.S. space chief updates on asteroid lasso mission
- Surrounded by engineers, NASA chief Charles Bolden inspected a prototype spacecraft engine that could power an audacious mission to lasso an asteroid and tow it closer to Earth for astronauts to explore. more »
- Canada's privacy laws inadequate for digital age, watchdog says
- Canadians' trust in the digital economy is at risk because our laws don't have enough teeth to compel companies to protect consumers' privacy, Canada's privacy commissioner says. more »
- Twitter launches feature to 'make sure it's really you'
- Following hack attacks on the Twitter accounts of The Associated Press, the Financial Times and other media organizations by the Syrian Electronic Army, Twitter has rolled out a new feature to help prevent unauthorized logins to a user's accounts. more »
- 'Hadfield at Home' parodies astronaut's return to 'normal' life
- While the real Chris Hadfield reacclimates to Earth gravity and performs experiments in Houston, a parody of the Canadian astronaut is recreating some of his famous space moments, but with decidedly terrestrial results. more »
Bob McDonald's Blog
- Chris Hadfield: The gravity of gravity May. 17, 2013 9:58 AM After five months of being Superman and a media superstar, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is now beginning the challenging task of adapting his mortal body and brain to life back on Earth.
Quirks & Quarks
- May 25: The Origin of Feces May. 23, 2013 9:43 AM Cow pies, scat, droppings, guano, dung, manure, night soil, poop, fecal matter, sh*t. Call it what you may, excrement plays a crucial role in evolution, culture and the environment.
- Rob Ford fired chief of staff for telling mayor to 'get help'
- Rob Ford allies to publicly call on mayor to address drug-use allegations
- Man 'lucky to be alive' after Washington bridge collapse
- Greg Weston: Senate scandal may be Harper's worst hour
- Alleged Ford crack video seller not responding to calls
- Pickup truck backs up over mother, 2 children in tent
- Amanda Bynes arrested for allegedly tossing bong out window
- Canada Post campaigns against 'no flyers' mailbox signs
- 3D printers give rise to 'desktop manufacturing'