Scientists discover orphaned planet

Staff Reports
An "orphaned" planet was discovered by researchers.
An "orphaned" planet was discovered by researchers.

     Astronomers have discovered a world just 80 light years away from Earth and floating alone -- without a sun.

    The planet was identified from its faint and unique heat signature by the wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, Maui, according to a release from the Institute of Astronomy, University of Hawaii. Follow-up observations using other telescopes in Hawaii show that it has properties similar to those of gas-giant planets found orbiting around young stars.
     The planet can be observed and examined easier than planets orbiting stars, promising insight into the details of planetary atmospheres, according to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.   
     About a thousand planets have been discovered outside our solar system by indirect means -- such as observing the wobbling or dimming of their host stars as they orbit. Only a handful of new planets have been directly imaged, all of them around young stars, according to the Institute for Astronomy. This planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. 


     A primer: Earth's cousin orbits distant star