CFBDSIR J21497

 

It’s about the size of Jupiter, so it deserved, like the planets familiar to us, an equally divine name.  But no.  Being scientists, its baptizers preferred a jumble of letters or figures (“numbers”, if you are American).  This recently discovered enormous planet, unattached to any fixed star, has been wandering through the Universe for the last one hundred million years or so.  At only (!) one hundred light-years from Earth, it is the closest so far found (2013).  That puts it at roughly 1,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers away from us.  Whether or not you have the honor of an Irish origin, we all know it’s a long way to Tipperary.  I used to think Sydney was a long way from Paris.  It’s 18,000 kms.

I am already impressed with the 850 exoplanets discovered outside our solar system in recent years, but CFetc, though not the only such nomadic starless planet, is truly impressive.  But what, in Heaven’s name, is this monster doing blindly whirling through the Universe ?  The same question, of course, applies just as much to all the others.  The Universe is either the playground of an omnipotent divine Creator, who may not play with dice but apparently plays pointlessly with planets, or is the result of mindless cosmic forces that will forever transcend our efforts to understand them.  We can dismiss the first hypothesis as too fanciful to believe, and content ourselves with our limited but expanding knowledge of a fascinating Universe, as we make the most of the infinitesimal part of it we call home.  WYSIWYG.

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