WASHINGTON, October 9, 2013 (AFP) – Astronomers said Wednesday they have found a lonely planet outside the solar system floating alone in space and not orbiting a star. Other telescopes in Hawaii showed that the planet has similar properties to those of gas giants orbiting around young stars, but PSO J318.5-22 lacks a host star.
During the past decade, researchers have found about a thousand extrasolar planets using indirect methods, including planet-induced wobbling or dimming of their host stars.
But only a handful of these planets have been observed directly since most are orbiting around young stars less than 200 million years old and thus very bright.
PSO J318.5-22 “is going to provide a wonderful view into the inner workings of gas-giant planets like Jupiter shortly after their birth,” said co-author Niall Deacon of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. 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 look