Nautilus

Hero Planet, or Plebian?

Rogue planet. The term suggests a loner—a rebel refusing to play by the rules, breaking with tradition, going anywhere in the galaxy it pleases. Labels such as “rogue,” “nomadic,” and “wandering” are common in the media coverage of the recent discoveries of planets that might not be in orbit around any star. The romantic anthropomorphism is understandable. It’s also inaccurate. What’s potentially important about these objects isn’t that they’re the James Deans of the cosmos. They’re not. Their significance, if they exist, would be even more radical: They could be the new normal.

Consider CFBDSIRJ214947.2-040308.9, or 2149 for short.  It was discovered in 2009 about 80 to 160 light years (about 600 trillion miles) from Earth. In astronomy jargon, 2149 is an Isolated Planetary Mass Object (IPMO). An IPMO could be a star that never ignited, or a planet

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