Scientists Discover Planet With No Sun: Lonely Planet First Ever Found Not Orbiting A Star
By Staff Writer | October 17, 2013 02:31 PM EDT
Scientists have found a planet without a sun.
Amazingly, the new planet is not in orbit around a host star, unlike any planet ever found.
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That's a lonely planet-literally.
"This thing is floating in space like our sun floats in space," said Eugene Magnier of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, coauthor of a study about the planet. "It is drifting around through the galaxy."
Astronomers are not sure how the planet formed. Scientists postulate that the planet without a sun formed from a condensed mass of hydrogen gas. Another theory says that the planet somehow whirled out of orbit from around a star.
The new planet is 80 light-years from Earth and very large-about six times the size of Jupiter. It's also very young, around 12 million years old.
The lonely planet was was discovered by scientists using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.
The new planet also be a brown dwarf, Magier said. "We still don't have a good idea about where to draw the line between a planet and brown dwarf," he said. Still, the size of the planet means that it is considered its own planet.
The new "lonely" planet is one of the lowest-mass objects that is free-floating known. A release from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii says the finding may have implications into future research.
"I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist," said Liu in a statement. "Now we know they do."
"Most objects in the universe don't form all by themselves," he added. "They are in binary or multiple systems," he said. "It is reasonably likely that it has a companion."
Thus, the lonely planet may have friends out there after all-even if it's awfully cold out there in space without a sun.
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