Feeds

Boffins spot LONE PLANET roaming interstellar void

Orbiting nothing, wandering homeless, 80 light years away

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

It's just a drifter in a big, cold universe, but it's causing excitement among the astronomers that spotted it: 80 light years away, there's a young planet six times the size of Jupiter, that isn't orbiting any star.

While its loneliness makes the planet, PSO J318.5-22, unique in astronomical discoveries to date, it's also a boon for studying exoplanets. As the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy explains, it's hard to study exoplanets that are orbiting stars, because of the noise of their hosts.

As Dr Niall Deacon of Germany's Max Planck Institute says: “PSO J318.5-22 is not orbiting a star so it will be much easier for us to study. It is going to provide a wonderful view into the inner workings of gas-giant planets like Jupiter shortly after their birth.”

The planet, found in the Beta Pictoris group, is also surprisingly young, believed to have formed just 12 million years ago.

PSO J318.5-22 was spotted in a survey, by Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 (PS-1) wide-field survey telescope, that was seeking brown dwarf stars.

The researchers, led by Dr Michael Lui of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, mined the 4,000 TB dataset generated by PS-1 looking for brown dwarf signatures. These objects are very faint and quite red, but the researchers say the new planet showed up as far redder than any brown dwarf seen.

The lonely planet

This 125 arcsecond-wide image shows the lonely planet, in the direction

of Capricornius. Image: PAN-Starrs 1, N Metcalfe.

Following the PS1 observation, the group cross-checked their discovery using other telescopes on Mauna Kea, including NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the Gemini North Telescope. The signatures found in these observations suggest that PSO J318.5-22 is young and low mass.

Its distance from Earth was measured after two years' observations by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope. The researchers' paper, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, is in pre-press at Arxiv. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.