Planet With No Sun Discovered Floating Through Space

October 11, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015    

A planet with no sun was spotted by astronomers, according to astronomers in Hawaii this week. The sun-less planet is reportedly six times the size of Jupiter.

Scientists have said that the planet, called PSO J318.5-22, could be the first real free-roaming planet spotted by astronomers to date. The planet was spotted drifting alone around eighty light years from Earth, according to the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manao, which conducted the research.

“We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that looks like this,” said lead researcher Michael Liu in a statement. “It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone. I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”

The planet, researchers said, formed around 12 million years ago and is similar to other gas giants orbiting around young stars, the university said. Earth is thought to be around 4.5 billion years old.

“Planets found by direct imaging are incredibly hard to study, since they are right next to their much brighter host stars. 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,” Dr. Niall Deacon of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said in a statement.

The planet was discovered while researchers were trying to find brown dwarfs. Like PSO J318.5-22, brown dwarfs are faint and have cool temperatures.

But PSO J318.5-22 “stood out as an oddball, redder than even the reddest known brown dwarfs,” they said.

“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 PS1,” said Dr. Eugene Magnier, co-author of the study.