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Lonely Planet

October 21, 2013

Astronomers have discovered a solitary planet without a sun.



A lonesome planet. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Artist's representation of the solitary planet, PSO J318.5-22. (Ch. Quetz/MPIA)

Scientists have discovered a planet that isn’t part of any star system. The solitary red world, which goes by the catchy name of PSO J318.5-22, is 80 light years from earth and roughly the size of 6 Jupiters. University of Hawai’i at Manoa astronomer Michael Liu says the planet’s isolation offers an unprecedented learning opportunity.

MICHAEL LIU (University of Hawai’i at Manoa):

When people take images of planets around other stars it’s like trying to detect a firefly next to a spotlight, it’s very hard because the bright star gives off so much light and the planet is this tiny dim speck that’s very hard to pick out of it, so with this object, we basically have found the firefly all by itself and that means we can study it very carefully.


It’s not yet known whether the lonely planet started out as an undersized star, or got kicked out of another solar system. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.