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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus12 min read
Why We’re Patriotic: Whether it’s our country or our football team, we need to belong.
It started with one man quietly sipping a Tom Collins in the lounge car of the Cleveland-bound train. “God bless America,” he sang, “land that I love …” It didn’t take long. Others joined in. “Stand beside her … and guide her ...” Soon the entire tra
Nautilus10 min readSelf-Improvement
Playing Video Games Makes Us Fully Human: No other media meets our emotional and social needs like electronic games.
I have an agonizing decision to make. Should I save a governing body that has never done a thing for me? It doesn’t even contain a single person from my race. The aliens of the galactic Council decided long ago that my people should not be trusted, t
Nautilus5 min read
The Dr. Strange of the American Revolution
I ascribe the Success of our Revolution to a Galaxy,” Benjamin Rush wrote to John Adams, in 1812. He wasn’t invoking the astrological. It was commonplace then to associate a bright assembly of people with the starry band in the night sky that Chaucer