Scientists discover loneliest planet without a companion sun
Date published: 17th October 2013
Known by its code name, PSO J318.5-22, it was discovered about 80 light years away from Earth by scientists analysing data from the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sited on top of the Haleakala volcanic mountain on the island of Maui in Hawaii.
“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. I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do,” said Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who led the team.
Since the mid-1990s, hundreds of “exoplanets” beyond our own Solar System have been discovered using sophisticated techniques that usually involve detecting the decreased transmission of light as a planet passes in front of its sun.
The lonely planet was found by a different method during a search for failed stars known as brown dwarfs, which are very faint objects due to their cool temperatures and have colours at the red end of the light spectrum.
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