Mysterious object discovered in deep space attracts astronomers’ attention

13 Mar 2017

An artist’s impression of the free-floating planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9. Image: ESO/L Calçada/P Delorme/R Saito/VVV Consortium

Within deep space, there is a giant, mysterious object that shouldn’t be where it is, and astronomers are trying to figure it out.

The universe is full of mysteries, be it the origin of supermassive black holes, or strange readings surrounding a distant star.

But few anomalies attract as much attention as an object that shouldn’t be where it is.

According to a team from the Grenoble Alpes University in France, a mysterious object has been detected, and no one in the astronomical community is exactly sure as to what it is.

Found in 2012, CFBDSIR 2149-0403 was first classified as a unique T-type, isolated, planetary-mass candidate; a possible member of the AB Doradus moving group.

Due to a lack of hard evidence, the object could not be defined as a planetary body, though this does not exclude the possibility that it could be a low-mass brown dwarf.

To help discover what it is exactly, the team of astronomers has published a paper detailing its use of multi-instrument, multi-wavelength follow-up observations of this object.

One of two things

The instruments used as part of this follow-up included the Very Large Telescope’s X-Shooter spectrograph and the HAWK-I near-infrared imager. According to lead researcher Philippe Delorme, the X-Shooter provides the best overall view of the object.

“The X-Shooter data enabled a detailed study of the physical properties of this object. However, all the data presented in the paper is really necessary for the study, especially the follow-up to obtain the parallax of the object, as well as the Spitzer photometry,” he said to

“Together, they enable us to get the bolometric flux of the object and, hence, constraints that are almost independent from atmosphere model assumptions.

The subsequent findings have since dismissed the notion that the object is a member of the AB Doradus moving group, rather, it could be a young free-roaming planet less than 500m years old, or a metallically brown dwarf around 2-3bn years old.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic