So, apparently a group of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope recently published a paper announcing the identification of a free-floating object of planetary mass in the AB Doradus Moving Group, a loose assemblage of relatively young stars moving together through the galaxy. Did you miss it in there? The casual reference to the possibility of a planet floating loose out there in the black, and one of the closest we’ve ever discovered at that!! It gives us the opportunity to learn a great deal about the nature and composition of planets in other solar systems and clusters, and this one potentially offers the opportunity to develop a standard against which all future planetary discoveries will be judged and provides an incredibly valuable peek into the characteristics of stars, planets and systems much younger than our own (a mere 50 to 120 million years as opposed to the 4.6 billion of our own solar system).
Unfortunately it also provides the opportunity for rampant, mindless panic and ill informed fearmongering. I’ve been surprised how many of the news sites which have mentioned the new planet have connected it, however tenuously, to the Nibiru hoax, presumably to draw more traffic to their site, though in at least one case, the Nibiru fantasists have definitively rejected any connection.
My favorite take on the news is provided by Hank Green at SciShow. Incidentally, I completely agree that it needs a new name. And I have a humble proposition, to name it for David Morrison, in honor of his heroic struggle against the Nibiru hoax hysteria. Seriously.