The Lonely Life of CFBDSIR2149-0403

On November 14, 2012 the BBC World News website posted a story about a “rogue planet” in anticipation of its appearance in “Astronomy and Astrophysics”. These rogues aren’t that uncommon, but what’s special about this one is that it is our closest neighbor at 100 light-years away.

The article says that these rogue planets are formed much like stars but they just never reach a star’s full mass (There is a late years Elvis or Brando joke there but I just can’t put I finger on it.), or they form the way planets normally do but are then thrown out of their host star’s orbit. Kind of like if the Earth were suddenly flung out of the Sun’s orbit, but like millions of years ago, not right this minute. Right this minute would suck.

A team went looking for these planets using the Canada France Hawaii VLT. (VLT stands for Very Large Telescope. Seriously people, I can’t make that kind of stuff up! See? Science can be totally accessible.) Etienne Artigau, co-author of the study, is quoted in the article as saying they “observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighborhood.”

According to the article, this rogue planet, named CFBDSIR2149-0403, is believed to be 50 – 120 million years old. That’s a long time for a planet to be out there without a star to call its own. And it will continue to be “homeless”, a “rogue”, and “orphaned” until the sky ceases to be. It’s an interesting scientific discovery, but I also find it a rather sad, lonesome story.

Study co-author Philippe Delorme didn’t say it made him “sad”, but in the BBC article he did say, “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.”

This rarely happens, but for some reason, this story made me immediately think of the song “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” by Moby. Some may know it from the movie “Heat”. Anyway, here’s a YouTube of the song. If you want the complete “Rebecca” experience, you can start the music on the video and the start reading the BBC World News article and see if they go together for you like they did for me.

God speed CFBDSIR2149-0403, God speed.