Well now, this is mighty unusual…
Science Daily – Oct. 9, 2013 — An international team of astronomers has discovered an exotic young planet that is not orbiting a star. This free-floating planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is just 80 light-years away from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. The planet formed a mere 12 million years ago — a newborn in planet lifetimes.
It was identified from its faint and unique heat signature by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, Maui. 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. And yet PSO J318.5-22 is all by itself, without a host star.
“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,” explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”
The last line above from Dr. Liu gives me a smile and some hope. The sense of wonder is so important to us. I am glad it’s still out there. Really.
If it can be imagined, it’s out there. Things that can’t be imagined are no doubt out there, too. That’s exciting.
So many questions. Did it form out there? Around a star? If so, what happened to it? Maybe it’s a Dyson Sphere! Might it have life? I bet it does.
We need to build a way to go there and see. That should be our planetary goal.