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Fri Oct 31 19:49:02 SAST 2014

Now the homeless are also in space

©The Daily Telegraph | 15 November, 2012 00:39
The lonely planet, called CFBDSIR2149

A young "homeless" planet up to seven times the size of Jupiter has been spotted by scientists.

The lonely planet, called CFBDSIR2149 for now, is deemed "homeless" because it does not orbit a star.

It is the first isolated planet of its kind to be discovered after a search of more than a decade "looking for a needle among thousands of haystacks", the scientists said.

Up to seven times the size of Jupiter, it is not influenced by the gravity of a nearby body and meets the criteria of mass, temperature and age necessary for it to be designated a planet.

Between 50million and 120million years old, it is believed to be part of a group of around 30 very young stars known as the AB Doradus moving group.

The planet was discovered by researchers at the University of Montreal, who consulted French colleagues and referenced data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

Though scientists have known this type of "homeless" planet existed they have not been able to find one.

It is believed the isolated planet was flung away from its siblings during the formation of what would have been its solar system.

The existence of the orphan planet supports theories that this type of object is more common in space than had been thought.

"Though theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet, one had never been observed until today," said Étienne Artigau, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal.

"This object was discovered during a scan that covered the equivalent of 1000 times the surface of the moon.

"We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood."

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