Free-Floating Planet Without a Star Found 80 Light-Years Away

Posted on October 10, 2013

PSO J318.5-22 exoplanet


An international team of astronomers have located a free-floating planet with no star 80 light-years from Earth. The planet, PSO J318.5-22, formed about 12 million years ago. It has a mass six times that of Jupiter. The planet was discovered during a search for brown dwarfs. It was identified from its faint and unique heat signature by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, Maui. An artist's concept of the planet is pictured above.

Team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says in a release, "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."

The discovery paper was published here in the journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Image: MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz