back to article Boffins spot LONE PLANET roaming interstellar void

It's just a drifter in a big, cold universe, but it's causing excitement among the astronomers that spotted it: 80 light years away, there's a young planet six times the size of Jupiter, that isn't orbiting any star. While its loneliness makes the planet, PSO J318.5-22, unique in astronomical discoveries to date, it's also a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A planet?

    A planet? Don't you know your classics.... this is the Dark Star !!!! Darth Vador is coming for us :-)

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: A planet?

      Mixing your memes a bit there AC.

      1. Rukario

        Re: A planet?

        No he isn't. He is Hotblack Desiato's bodyguard, and he is responsible for his body, and he is not responsible for yours. So take it away before it gets damaged.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

            Re: A planet?

            It wasn't a cresent moon; it was a fully moon. That's all that's left of it; the rest is shooting off through the galaxy somewhere.

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: A planet?

      it's He, but not under spindizzy drive yet.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Imagine if you were stuck in orbit around it, in a damaged spaceship with no communications. You might keep a diary, with decreasingly rational entries, until you start recording your suspicions that the ship's computer is plotting against you. Meanwhile, the ship's computer (damaged due to EMP bursts emanating from PSO J318.5-22), becomes increasingly homicidal. After a number of near death experiences, you flee the ship and head to a small moon in orbit around the planet.

    Once there you switch on your communicator, and hear a rambling discourse from the ship's computer, ending with it begging for your forgiveness. It says it has managed to make repairs, and wants to rescue you.

    You forgive the computer, then place the communicator on the ground and hide in a nearby cave.

    A few minutes later there is a huge explosion as the ship's computer powers the ship at high speed into the moon at the exact spot where you left the communicator.

    You are alone now. You miss the computer, which seems fitting because it also missed you.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Imagine

      "You might keep a diary, with decreasingly rational entries..."

      Would that be the "Lonely Planet" guide to the Lonely Planet?

      1. Luther Blissett

        Re: Imagine

        So you think the BBC should buy it? Fan of theirs, are we?

    2. Awil Onmearse

      Re: Imagine

      Imagine hearing a rambling discourse on your communicator from the computer on a spaceship with no communications ;-)

      1. poopypants

        @Awil Onmearse (Re: Imagine)

        Unless the computer wasn't lying, and it had actually made repairs.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: @Awil Onmearse (Imagine)

          Not bad. Something practically out of a Philip K. Dick "collected stories".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is this not the beginning of the Dalek planet slurping plan? If the boffins suddenly find it has a companion I'm going to hide under the stairs.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Daleks

      A better idea would be to hide somewhere upstairs. At least that was the old advice, I'm not sure if it's the case anymore.

      1. Rukario

        Re: Daleks

        They've forgotten him. But still best to hide. Just DON'T BLINK (especially if you live in the south of Manhattan or Staten Island).

      2. muddysteve

        Re: Daleks

        They can fly now. There is no escape.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Daleks

          They still can't look up or down though!

          ...not sure that helps..sorry.

          1. thesykes

            Re: Daleks

            Don't you all know? The only place that you're safe from all of Dr Who's enemies is behind the sofa?

            1. AdamT

              Re: Daleks

              I always found that hiding behind a large cushion or your Dad worked too. Now that I am a Dad I'm thinking there is a flaw in this theory ...

              Unless in becoming a Dad you acquire invulnerability to DWE's. Or perhaps you just acquire the appearance of such invulnerability. Hmmm.

              1. JohnMartin

                Re: Daleks

                All Dads have super-powers ... ask any 6YO.

                The ability to dispell all fear of creepy crawlies, imaginanary friends that have gotten toxic, and the various forms of bogeymen is one of the the best reasons to be a Dad ... that and the license to tell "Dad Jokes"

              2. Wzrd1

                Re: Daleks

                "Unless in becoming a Dad you acquire invulnerability to DWE's."

                Nah, granddads have invulnerability to DWE's.

                All due to our possessing the universal ultimate weapon.

                "Pull my finger."

  4. Cliff

    Naming of astral bodies

    I'm going for 'The littlest hobo', and if you're over 40 you're now humming the theme tune...

    #Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down... #

    1. Rukario

      Re: Naming of astral bodies

      I'll be 42 in just under 2 days' time, and yes yes I am humming that tune. I HATE YOU!

      Still 3 comments in a few minutes, my fellow commentards must be good.

    2. Russell Hancock

      Re: Naming of astral bodies

      Hey - you don't have to be over 40 to know that tune... i'm *only* 31 and i know the tune!

      1. The_H

        Re: Naming of astral bodies

        Kids. Always going one better. *rolls eyes*

        1. Great Bu

          Re: Naming of astral bodies

          Surely it should be named 'Kim-Jong-il' on account of being so ronery......

      2. Gordon Pryra

        Re: Naming of astral bodies

        Down voted for still being under 40 and 9 years better off than me.

    3. DCA

      Re: Naming of astral bodies

      You are very, very cruel. I must now implant a worm to remove that from my head.

  5. Alex Walsh

    *engage Arnold Rimmer mode* it's aliens

    Lister: Your explanation for anything slightly peculiar is aliens, isn't it? You lose your keys, it's aliens. A picture falls off the wall, it's aliens. That time we used up a whole bog roll in a day, you thought that was aliens as well.

    Rimmer: Well we didn't use it all, Lister. Who did?

    Lister: Rimmer, ALIENS used our bog roll?

    Rimmer: Just cause they're aliens doesn't mean to say they don't have to visit the little boys' room. Only they probably do something weird and alien-esque, like it comes out of the top of their heads or something.

    Lister: Well I wouldn't like to be stuck behind one in a cinema.

  6. Khaptain

    Thought for the day.

    Which is lonelier, that little star or the earth....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's 'He'

    Coming visiting.

    1. PhilBuk

      Re: It's 'He'

      Damn, you beat me to it - another old timer! Can't see New York yet.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's 'He'

        Dunno about NY, but maybe we should be looking out for the Orbital Fort :)

  8. EddieD


    It's the Pierson's Puppeteers heading out of the galaxy before it goes fooom....

    1. Richard Altmann

      Re: Nah..

      Where´s the Klemperer rosette then?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Nah..

        Designed by Puppeteer Ballmer. It wouldn't fly.

  9. Kobus Botes

    No, it's.....


    The size is misleading - what they are seeing is the dust cloud surrounding Krikkit.

    I wonder if they still sing those wonderful songs? At only 80 ly away, we should be able to pick up their radio transmissions one of these days.

  10. Kaltern

    Obviously it's a Dyson's Sphere. Camouflaged with gas emissions. Hence no star y'see...

    1. BenR

      Re: Dyson Sphere

      Probably not. Assuming when they talk about size they're referring to mass, and assuming the average density of large gas giants to be similar (i.e. this has approximately the same density as Jupiter despite being 6 times more massive), then the ratio of radii is the cube-root of the size multiple, so in this case the cube-root of 6 = 1.817, so slightly less than twice the radius, or slightly more than 3.5 times the diameter if you prefer.

      (NB: if they were talking about ACTUAL dimensions, then 6 times the ACTUAL size would of course make it 216 times more massive for the same density, although it is theorised that Jupiter is about as 'big' as a planet can get before the additional mass causes it to become 'smaller' but more dense - see the Jupiter wiki article.)

      This gives it an approx. radius of about 126k km. Bit on the small side for a Dyson sphere - unless it was a very small, relatively cool star. For reference, Jupiter would need to be about 75 times more massive to fuse hydrogen properly and be a red dwarf. 50 times the mass and it'd probably be a brown dwarf in itself. This exoplanet still has a way to go then.

      I'm sure someone will correct my maths if I've made a balls-up somewhere!

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Dyson Sphere

        Since we've finally managed to start a technical strand to this forum, can anyone tell me if this is technically a planet at all - my understanding was that Planets had to orbit a star, otherwise they were asteroids, comets or whatever, though I do realise that this one is "a little" unusual!

        1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

          re Technically a planet?

          Sorry, mate, you got drowned in memes again. FWIW, planet is from the Greek for 'wanderer', and this one is surely wandering!

          1. Luther Blissett

            Re: re Technically a planet?

            Literally correct, but otherwise confusing etymology and sociology. Are we sure there is no star it is (not) orbiting? Why, just the other week, they found another star in the Fomalhaut configuration. Obviously what they need is a Bigger Telescope (or perhaps a Bigger Machine to run a Bigger Database).

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Dyson Sphere

          "Since we've finally managed to start a technical strand to this forum, can anyone tell me if this is technically a planet at all"

          -> Well that's actually a good one. Jupiter could (only semi accurately) be described as a "failed star" so presumably this discovery is a gas giant with the composition required for a star, but without the mass required to ignite and it would stand to reason that it will have stuff orbiting it that we can't see with the technology we are using.

          Logically, you'd expect there would be quite a lot of these things around so i'm sure they will be spotted in the decades to come.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dyson Sphere

        " Assuming when they talk about size they're referring to mass"

        How can they tell its mass when it isn't orbiting anything?

      3. Stevie

        Re: Dyson Sphere

        [4 BenR] To paraphrase my daughter when being told we were going to visit Kennedy Space Center:

        "Blah blah science. Blah blah math."

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Dyson Sphere

          > "Blah blah science. Blah blah math."

          Your really want to introduce your daughter to Portal. And feed her potatoes

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Best not to turn it off then, lest we be turned into motiles to serve our great overlord MorningLightMountain :)

  11. gaz 7

    Moonbase Alpha?

    Which has escaped from a parallel universe by any chance?

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re: Moonbase Alpha?

      or an Excession!!

  12. Harvey Trowell

    Clearly the work of a Vogon Constructor Fleet.

    They just missed a bit.

    Beer, because I bet Vogons don't drink Carling Black Label.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clearly the work of a Vogon Constructor Fleet.

      More likely to be the unwanted result of a Disaster Area concert.

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    No mention of big data

    Which is nice. If 4,000 TB isn't big data then I'm not sure what is. But, then again, that's been standard for boffins of both the astronomical and atomic variety for years now and all handled with a refreshing lack of half-baked, buzzword-compatible products.

    1. Khaptain

      Re: No mention of big data

      That's because the author didn't explain that TB actually means "tiny bits" - 4000 tiny bits.....

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: No mention of big data

      Yes, but it's mostly empty spce.


  14. Fink-Nottle

    Solar systems ain't easy

    I'm surprised there aren't more stray planets floating around. I know whenever I tried to program a solar system (c.f. A.K. Dewdney's Computer Recreations) the planets would promptly whizz off into deep space.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Solar systems ain't easy

      Since 1995, more than 500 exoplanets have been detected using different techniques of which 12 were detected with gravitational microlensing. Most of these are gravitationally bound to their host stars. There is some evidence of free-floating planetary-mass objects in young star-forming regions but these objects are limited to massive objects of 3 to 15 Jupiter masses with large uncertainties in photometric mass estimates and their abundance. Here, we report the discovery of a population of unbound or distant Jupiter-mass objects, which are almost twice as common as main-sequence stars, based on two years of gravitational microlensing survey observations towards the Galactic Bulge. These planetary-mass objects have no host stars that can be detected within about ten astronomical units by gravitational microlensing. However, a comparison with constraints from direct imaging suggests that most of these planetary-mass objects are not bound to any host star. An abrupt change in the mass function at about one Jupiter mass favours the idea that their formation process is different from that of stars and brown dwarfs. They may have formed in proto-planetary disks and subsequently scattered into unbound or very distant orbits.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite clearly

    It states that they were looking for a brown dwarf but this was far too red.

    So it's the Red Dwarf. The planet should be named Holly.

    1. Miek

      Re: Quite clearly

      or Hilly ...

  16. ecofeco Silver badge


    Its cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere,

    I'm all alone, more or less.

    Let me fly, far away from here,

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun.

    I want to lie, shipwrecked and comotoase,

    Drinking fresh, mango juice,

    Goldfish shoals, nibbling at my toes,

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun,

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun.

    I'll pack my bags and head into hyperspace

    Where I'll succeed at time-warp speed

    Spend my days in ultraviolet rays

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun.

    We'll lock on course straight through the universe

    You and me and the galaxy

    Reach the stage where hyper-drive's engaged

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun,

    Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun.

  17. At0micAndy

    It is the Great Evil approaching. We need Korben Dallas and Leeloo, otherwise we are stuffed!

    1. AdamT

      got to find your multipass first though?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Six times larger than Jupiter?

    It isn't a planet, it's your mom!

  19. John Sanders

    PLANET X!!!!

  20. Smallbrainfield

    It's Marrow.

    We just need to get over there and restart the engines then the grand tour of the galaxy can begin.

  21. poohbear

    Doom is near!

    It's Nibiru!

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Old_Polish_Proverb

    No. Not Nibiru - Tyche

    You got Nibiru in my Tyche!

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: Nope. Neither Nibiru or Tyche - Nemesis

      Keep your dirty Nibiru and Tyche away from my Nemesis!

  24. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Purely as an aside

    inline voting seems to be working - about €££ing time, elReg!

    Erm, I mean, good work Vulture Central!

    1. Alistair 3

      Re: Purely as an aside

      I wouldn't call a button that requires an entire page reload "inline". How about some ajax?

  25. Mike Moyle


    So, clearly, I am the only geezer here old enough that my first thought was, "Bronson Alpha".

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: *sigh*

      Naw, just the only one with enough brains cells left to remember.

      I had to look it up and I've seen the original movie! I going to blame beer.

  26. Kanhef

    "Orbiting nothing"?

    That would be quite fascinating, but I think you mean 'not orbiting anything'. As for "six times the size of Jupiter", is that referring to diameter or mass?

    1. Tom_

      Re: "Orbiting nothing"?

      It's probably orbiting the centre of mass of the galaxy anyway.

  27. aallison

    Shame on you! Planet: a celestial body moving in an elliptical orbit around a star.

    No star, no planet.

  28. Old Handle

    IAU: It's not a planet, we hate planets.

  29. RISC OS

    The artist conception...

    ...looks a lot like he just made a screenshot of elite.

    Plus all these artist conceptions of planets are all the same, why don't they all just use the same one since know one will ever know if it is wrong.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    That's not a planet!

    It's alive...AND COMING THIS WAY!!!!

  31. jonfr

    What is interesting is that this planet just formed 12 million years ago (from our point of view) and it's just 80 light years away. That means we are now seeing the planet as it was 80 years ago.

    There are many more planets out there in my view, but they are really hard to find since they are cold and dark. I am sure with time the human race is going to be find a way to find this planets out there.

  32. Splodger

    It's obviously...

    ... a mutant star-goat.

    May I be the first to welcome the (not very imminent) arrival of our colossal caprine overlord!

  33. Astarte

    It's The Mothership

    ... waiting for Rama to return home after its rendezvous with Earth.

    1. Shrimpling

      Re: It's The Mothership

      Rama headed off in a different direction from the one it came from after visiting our solar system...

      Is this mothership where it can from or where it is going to?

      1. Astarte

        Re: It's The Mothership

        Rama changed direction at perihelion but to where we don't know. At least it probably took note of the religious mania and political in-fighting between humans and 'phoned home. At least the missile to destroy it was diverted to the Sun.

        Keep watching; the story's closing words were "... the Ramans do everything in threes,"

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