00:20 GMT +316 December 2019
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    A young, free-floating world sits alone in space in this illustration.

    'All By Myself': Lonely Planet Found Floating Around in Space

    © NASA . JPL-Caltech
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    NASA has discovered a new planet floating freely around the galaxy proving the theory that in the dark depths of space, lonely planets outnumber stars in the Milky Way.

    A recent study "provides new clues in this mystery of galactic proportions," said NASA, after scientists found a free-floating, planetary-mass object within a young star family called the TW Hydrae association.

    The newly discovered planet, called WISEA 1147 for short, is thought to be up to ten times the size of Jupiter.

    "The features on this one screamed out, 'I'm a young brown dwarf,' " said Adam Schneider, lead author of the study due to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    But despite its size, tracing the origins of free-floating worlds to see if they are indeed planets or brown dwarfs is tricky — because they are so isolated and lonely.

    A sky map taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows the location of the TW Hydrae family, or association, of stars, which lies about 175 light-years from Earth and is centered in the Hydra constellation. The stars are thought to have formed together around 10 million years ago.
    © NASA . JPL-Caltech
    A sky map taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows the location of the TW Hydrae family, or association, of stars, which lies about 175 light-years from Earth and is centered in the Hydra constellation. The stars are thought to have formed together around 10 million years ago.

    "We are at the beginning of what will become a very hot field — trying to determine the nature of the free-floating population and how many are planets versus brown dwarfs," co-author of the study Davy Kickpatrick of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said.

    By studying lonely planets, like the WISEA 1147, astronomers hope to learn more about what they're made out of — as well as weather patterns on isolated worlds.    

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    Tags:
    dwarf planet, astronomy, planet, technology, space exploration, science, galaxy, NASA, California Institute of Technology, space, United States
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