This is a Doctor Who episode waiting to happen.

“The body is likely a planet, with an average temperature of 806 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius).”
Better bring sunglasses.

Astronomers have discovered a planet with no star!

Astronomers have discovered a potential “rogue” alien planet wandering alone just 100 light-years from Earth, suggesting that such starless worlds may be extremely common across the galaxy.

The free-floating object, called CFBDSIR2149, is likely a gas giant planet four to seven times more massive than Jupiter, scientists say in a new study unveiled today (Nov. 14). The planet cruises unbound through space relatively close to Earth (in astronomical terms), perhaps after being booted from its own solar system.

Someone probably hijacked it and is joyriding it across the galaxy.

Apparently, starless planets are news only to me.

The discovery of a starless alien planet would not be shocking, at least not anymore. In the last year or so, astronomers have spotted a number of such orphan worlds — so many, in fact, that some scientists think parentless planets are the rule rather than the exception.

One 2011 study, for example, estimated that rogue worlds outnumber “normal” planets with obvious host stars by at least 50 percent throughout the Milky Way. If that’s the case, the galaxy that includes Earth probably also hosts billions of orphan planets.

And gas giants may be in the minority among these solitary wanderers, researchers say.

“We now know that such massive planets are rare and that Neptunes or Earth-mass planets are much more common,” Delorme said. “We also know that massive objects are more difficult to eject [from solar systems] than light ones. If you follow the rationale, you deduce that ejected exo-Neptunes and ejected exo-Earths should be much more common than objects like CFBDSIR2149.”

I really wish I could look at the universe through the eyes (and mind) of people like Sean Carroll, or at life through the eyes of PZ Myers.  How staggeringly more beautiful it must be to them.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Blindsight by Peter Watts features such a wandering gas giant. It is also one of the most thought-provoking bits of sci-fi I’ve ever read.

    • drax

      I’ve just started reading it. Vampires in space! Have you read the Rifter trilogy?

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        You sort of undersell it with “vampires in space”, the vampires are a species closely related to modern humans, long-hibernating predators that prey on humans who were wiped out at the dawn of civilization because too many right-angles in their field of view sends them into epileptic seizures. Resurrected by genetic tinkering for their brains that process information in a totally different way to modern humans, the vampires also illustrate the central theme of the book – intelligence and consciousness.

  • Erülóra Maikalambe

    “Apparently, starless planets are news only to me.”

    I was going to say. But yeah, this is a rather large one. Makes one wonder what its story is.

  • John Evans

    No no. Not Dr. Who. Space: 1999.

  • Das Boese

    One of the more interesting implications is that a big moon of such a planet might still have life on it! Even without a sun, radioactive decay and tidal forces can generate enough heat to allow a liquid water ocean under an icy surface to persist for a long long time.

  • Brad

    Endor was a moon that had been thrown out of orbit. (no idea where the daylight came from)

    • Stogoe

      No, Endor was the gas giant. And the forest moon (unnamed) orbiting Endor was still in orbit around the gas giant. I couldn’t tell you whether they were still orbiting their star, though.

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