I like learning about astronomy, especially in this era when new discoveries are popping up on almost a daily basis. Here's the lastest of the list, where they've discovered a free-agent planet that was not orbiting a star.
Astronomers have spotted a "rogue planet" - wandering the cosmos without a star to orbit - 100 light-years away. Recent finds of such planets have suggested that they may be common, but candidates have eluded close study.
The proximity of the new rogue planet has allowed astronomers to guess its age: a comparatively young 50-120 million years old.
That last sentence makes being a Bible-totin' evangelical with a sci-fi geek inside problematic, for you need to tell the Answers in Genesis people to stuff a cork in it while you ponder the universe. Either the scientists are off with their ages, or the young-earthers are off on theirs.
One can split the difference in astronomy by making the days of Genesis eras; God's still in charge, but you can read modern science without having to flag an astrophysicist 15 yards for Time-Line Interference every time a reference to a time frame in millions of years or higher shows up. It doesn't violate inerrancy, it just violates a very literal version of it; a 24/6 creation is problematic since the sun and moon don't show up on day one.
Anyways, back to the science. The new rogue planet Palin-2012a- no, CFBDSIR2149-0403 is its designation- is big as planets go-
The team believe it has a temperature of about 400C and a mass between four and seven times that of Jupiter - well short of the mass limit that would make it a likely brown dwarf.
What remains unclear is just how the planet came to be - the tiny beginnings of a star, or planet launched from its home? Study co-author Philippe Delorme of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble, said that the latter implied a great many planets like it.
We may find that the line between a big planet and a brown dwarf will be hard to draw. On one level, Jupiter is a brown dwarf, for it radiates more energy than it takes from the Sun; it just doesn't quite have the size to start the internal nuclear fusion that marks a star. Many systems have multiple stars; it isn't too big of a stretch to see a super-Jupiter not-quite-star get kicked out of the nest and go rogue in intersteller space.
The Jupiter-sized rogues will be harder to see at a distance, so their might be quite a few rogue planets, but since they don't radiatate much energy and don't do eclipses of their star to be detected via the changes in light, it may take far better telescopes to pick up the smaller ones.