It sounds like something that would be more suited to Star Wars than the Solar System.
But scientists in Chicago have calculated that life can cling on to a planet for billions of years without a star to provide a direct source of warmth.
Research by astrophysicists Dorian Abbot and Eric Switzer from the city's university discovered that heat would come from the breakdown of radioactive elements inside the planet's core.

This heat would be enough to keep the oceans liquid, but only beneath a thick sheet of ice which would cover the planet's surface.
The ice layer would make the surface uninhabitable, but marine life below it could thrive for an indeterminate amount of time.
The scientists named their discovery a 'Steppenwolf' planet because they claimed any life found there would 'exist like a lone wolf wandering the galactic steppe'.
However the pair refused to speculate on what life forms would be discovered, but agreed that they would me microscopic in size.

The pair's research focused on planets ranging from between 0.1 and 10 times the Earth's mass with similar features.
The scientists then calculated that a planet with the same amount of water as Earth would need to be 3.5 times the mass to sustain life.
But a planet with ten times as much water would only need to be a third of the weight.
The scientist then imagined a Steppenwolf planet with volcanoes emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
They found that the gas would freeze and fall as snow almost immediately, covering the world with an insulating blanket of dry ice. In this case, planets as small as 0.3 times the mass of Earth could keep a liquid ocean.

he phenomenon of a starless planet occurs when they are ejected from their orbit when passing stars or other planets cause extreme gravitational forces.
It usually takes place when a small planet comes in close contact with gas giant, effecting a slingshot and sending them into unstable orbits.
This results in the planet slowly freezing to death, but as the research has found, this could take several billion years.
'It's a really interesting idea,' Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics told the New Scientist.
'But we would have to land on [a planet] and burrow down to see if life is possible.'

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