Planet found floating without star in space
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Astronomers said on Wednesday they have found a lonely planet outside the solar system floating alone in space and not orbiting a star.
The gaseous exoplanet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is just 80 light years from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. Having formed 12 million years ago, the planet is considered a newborn among its peers.
"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone," said research team leader 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." The researchers, whose study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, identified the planet from its faint and unique heat signature using the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope on the Haleakala volcano of Hawaii's Maui island.