Astronomers Spot Lonesome Planet Without Sun

edt-MPIA_V. Ch. Quetz
MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz

Astronomers have found a massive planet, floating alone outside the solar system without a sun to keep it warm. Free-floating objects have been reported before, but in the past, scientists weren’t sure whether these were orphaned planets or failed stars. This time, the scientists say they're positive it's a planet. "It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone,” team leader Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa said in a news release on Wednesday. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.” The gaseous exoplanet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, was identified by the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Astronomers think the planet, located eighty light-years from Earth, is associated with a collection of young stars called the Beta Pictoris moving group, which formed about 12 million years ago.

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