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It has all the ingredients for a heartstring-tugging Pixar movie: a young planet wanders the cosmos without a star of its own to orbit.

Astronomers have discovered one such lonely planet, 100 light-years away. That's close enough for them to make a food guess at its age: a comparatively young 50-120 million years old.

Philippe Delorme of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble, said:  "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."

The ‘rogue planet’, which has been fondly named CFBDSIR2149-0403, was discovered during a scan that covered the equivalent of 1,000 times the [area] of the full moon, reports the BBC.

"We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood." said scientist Etienne Artigau of the University of Montreal.

Rogue planets are believed to form in one of two ways: either coalescing from a disk of dust and debris but then thrown out of a host star's orbit, or in a similar way to stars but never reaching full mass.

Either way, the objects end up free of a host star's gravity. Since most planets are discovered through the effects they have on their host star's light, finding rogue planets is much more difficult.

 

Image via Getty


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