Astronomers have long theorized that there are many planets that have drifted away from their home stars, whether it's a too-loose gravitational pull during the planet's formation or a stellar tug-of-war. We've never had a reasonable chance of locating such a wanderer until today, however. The University of Montreal believes it has spotted CFBDSIR2149, an awkwardly-named gas giant four to seven times larger than Jupiter, floating by itself in the AB Doradus Moving Group of young stars. Scientists made the discovery first by pinpointing their target through infrared images from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and later using the Very Large Telescope to deduce that the object was both too small to be a star as well as hot and young enough (752F and under 120 million years old) to fit the behavior of a planet orphaned early into its existence. With CFBDSIR2149's nature largely locked down, the challenge now is learning just how common such lonely examples can be; when it's much easier to focus on the stars while hunting for planets, finding any more strays could prove to be a daunting task.
University of Montreal detects an orbitless planet, shows that stars don't have an iron grip (video)
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