Lonely Planet Found Not Orbiting a Star

#Science

Fri, Oct 11th, 2013 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

On Phys.org, the discovery by an international team of astronomers of a "free-floating planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22," located "just 80 light-years away from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter" that is not orbiting any stars.

The planet formed a mere 12 million years ago?a newborn in planet lifetimes.

It was identified from its faint and unique heat signature by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, Maui. Follow-up observations using other telescopes in Hawaii show that it has properties similar to those of gas-giant planets found orbiting around young stars. And yet PSO J318.5-22 is all by itself, without a host star.

"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone," explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do."

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