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Hawaii telescopes help discover planet without a star

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 02:40 a.m. HST, Oct 10, 2013

Astronomers, using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, have discovered a celestial oddity -- a large, young planet that is not orbiting a star, it was announced Wednesday.

"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that looks like this," Michael Liu, team leader of Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said in a news release. "It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone."

The planet, called PSO J318.5-22, is 80 light-years away from Earth, has a mass six times greater than Jupiter, and is only about 12 million years old, which is young for a planet, the scientists said.

"I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do," Liu said.

According to the IFA, the planet has properties similar to those of gas-giant planets found orbiting young stars.

The Pan-STARRS 1 telescope is used to search for failed stars known as "brown dwarfs," which have cool temperatures, are very faint and have red coloring.

The lonely planet PSO J318.5-22 stood out as Pan-STARRS 1 scanned the skies because it was redder than even the reddest known brown dwarfs, according to the astronomers.

"We often describe looking for rare celestial objects as akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. So we decided to search the biggest haystack that exists in astronomy, the dataset from (Pan-STARRS 1,)" Eugene Magnier of IFA and a co-author of the study said in the release.

The astronomers used telescopes on Mauna Kea to verify their discovery.

The team's paper on their discovery is being published by Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available at http://bit.ly/17vrjGI. The other authors of the paper include Katelyn Allers (Bucknell University), Trent Dupuy (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), and Michael Kotson and Kimberly Aller (UH-Manoa.)

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allie wrote:
proud of my UH!
on October 9,2013 | 02:52PM
sailfish1 wrote:
How sad! An orphan planet.
on October 9,2013 | 06:28PM
mikethenovice wrote:
birth control for planets.
on October 9,2013 | 08:09PM
st1d wrote:
death star.
on October 9,2013 | 07:01PM
veelc wrote:
It's Falcor. He's a luck dragon.
on October 9,2013 | 07:41PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Many a scientist have explored space, and rightly so, with the dreams of Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry. To be able to go to a distant planet, yet alone Mars though, is almost like a pipe dream. The gravity alone is difficult to overcome, if the human race is to continue on Mars, for example. Life in our solar system can last for maybe 3 billion more years, and omg, that's less than budgeted for TheRail !! However, we just got the news that Earth may not be livable as we know it, in 2047 or so, due to a few scientists at UHM. When we all go away, or at least if a million of us survive, we will utilize less resources and the global warming effects will recede. Therefore, if the temperatures will be unbearable in 2047, why are we not making preparations, such as stocking up on umbrellas? Just a thought, or two, or three. Beam me up Scotty.
on October 9,2013 | 07:44PM
Nevadan wrote:
Cannot be. Someone will find it. It is only 80 light years away.
on October 9,2013 | 07:44PM
mikethenovice wrote:
in dog years?
on October 9,2013 | 08:09PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Miley Cyrus is a star.
on October 9,2013 | 08:09PM
tutulois wrote:
Proud -- I am no scientist, but so proud that so many discoveries like this are made here !
on October 10,2013 | 04:10AM
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