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Newly Identified Rogue Exoplanet is the Youngest Discovered

Astronomers first spotted the free-floating exoplanet adrift in our galactic neighborhood when its infrared emissions were picked up while searching the universe for dwarf planets and failed stars.

Led by Kendra Kellogg, a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario, the team of astronomers used the FLAMINGOS 2 spectrograph instrument, which picks up specific wavelengths of light emitted by bright objects. It showed that the object was not as dense as a distant star reddened by dust but an exoplanet, an orphaned planet without a moon.

Location of 2MASSJ119-1137

Location of 2MASSJ119-1137

Kellogg says,

It emits much more light in the infrared part of the spectrum than it would be expected to if it had already aged and cooled.

Thus, it was determined that it was a young exoplanet. They named it 2MASSJ119-1137. The team confirmed and characterized it by using NASA’s wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite and the Gemini South and Baade telescopes in Chile. The 2MASSJ119-1137 was seen flying freely among a group of two-dozen young stars.

By measuring how 2MASSJ119-1137 moved through space and how its light shifted, the team determined it to be 95 light-years away from Sun, near the star TW Hydrae in the constellation of Hydra. Its association with young stars and its powerful infrared emission were a sign of youth. This was confirmed by use of the FIRE spectrograph on Carnegie’s Baade 6.5 meter telescope in Chile and it was estimated at being 10 million years old, one of the youngest exoplanets ever discovered.

The Infrared Survey Explorer Satellite

The Infrared Survey Explorer Satellite

The study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters revealed 2MASSJ119-1137 to be between four to eight times the mass of Jupiter.

The study states,

We present spectra that confirm the youth of the object. Measured radial velocity together with sky position, proper motion and photometric distance, results in a 92% probability of membership in the TW Hydrae association. (It is the) second brightest object discovered to date.

The astronomers have yet to determine the destination of 2MASSJ119-1137.

Studying exoplanets offer insight into the early stages of the development of solar systems.

Kellogg says,

(Rogues are) much easier to scrutinize than planets orbiting around other stars. Objects like 2MASSJ119-1137 are drifting in space all alone, and our observations are not overwhelmed by the brightness of a host star next door.