Space

Planet with 900,000-year orbit lies a staggering 1 trillion kilometers from its sun

Planet with 900,000-year orbit...
An artist's impression of 2MASS J2126
An artist's impression of 2MASS J2126
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False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. Light from the star takes about a month to travel to the planet
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False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. Light from the star takes about a month to travel to the planet
False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. The arrows show the projected movement of the star and planet on the sky over 1000 years
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False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. The arrows show the projected movement of the star and planet on the sky over 1000 years
An artist's impression of 2MASS J2126
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An artist's impression of 2MASS J2126
A false colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2M2126, without labels
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A false colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2M2126, without labels
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In an astronomical astronomical discovery, scientists have identified what's believed to be the widest known planetary system. Situated about 104 light years from Earth, a planet that could be 15 times the size of Jupiter is in a 900,000-year orbit at a mind-boggling distance of 1 trillion km from its parent star – that's 7,000 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

The focus of studies by British, American, and Australian scientists, 2MASS J2126 was discovered in an infrared sky survey. Initial findings allowed astronomers to estimate the object's age, which in turn allowed them to determine its mass. It's mass was too low to be a failed star, so it was at first thought to be a free-floating planet. That is, a planet that isn't part of a star system, but floats like a cosmic orphan through interstellar space.

However, 2MASS J2126's orphan status was thrown into question by the presence of a young star in the vicinity called TYC 9486-927-1. Niall Deacon of the University of Hertfordshire and his team noticed that 2MASS J2126 and TYC 9486-927-1 were both about 104 light years from Earth and moving in the same direction, which indicates that they are associated. In other words, 2MASS J2126 orbits TYC 9486-927-1.

False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. Light from the star takes about a month to travel to the planet
False colour infrared image of TYC 9486-927-1 and 2MASS J2126. Light from the star takes about a month to travel to the planet

"This is the widest planet system found so far and both the members of it have been known for eight years," says Deacon. "But nobody had made the link between the objects before. The planet is not quite as lonely as we first thought, but it's certainly in a very long distance relationship."

2MASS J2126 is so far from its principal that in the (highly-unlikely) event that you were standing on its surface, you would see your sun as only another star and would probably be unaware that it had anything to do with you.

By looking at the spectra of 2MASS J2126 and TYC 9486-927-1, Deacon's team could measure the amount of lithium present in TYC 9486-927-1. Since lithium burns up over a star's lifetime, the amount present is an indicator of age. TYC 9486-927-1 had more than that of a nearby 45-million year-old star group called the Tucana Horologium Association, but less than another group of stars clocking in at 10 million years old.

From this age range, the scientists estimate the mass of 2MASS J2126 as between 11.6 to 15 times that of Jupiter, which makes it about the same mass, age, and temperature as beta Pictoris b – one of the first exoplanets to be directly imaged.

"Compared to beta Pictoris b, 2MASS J2126 is more than 700 times further away from its host star," says Simon Murphy of the Australian National University. "But how such a wide planetary system forms and survives remains an open question."

The research findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (PDF).

Source: Royal Astronomical Society

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7 comments
Sean-Anthony Sutherland
Wouldn't that still be one year?
Rocky Stefano
And this relates to poverty and starvation here on Earth how? I love all this space exploration and discovery. I guess hipsters have to have something to do when they fail English as a major. But please explain how this work and study is important when "warp speed" is untainable in the near future and the Earth's citizens would be much better served by solving the problems we've created on this planet before worrying about some alien farting on that distant lump of rock called 2MASS J2126. And no, I'm not interested in knowing how such a wide planetary system forms and survives.
TravisScott
So are we going to forget about pure science because we have problems here? Some of the cures to our woes are going to be found as we make leaps into stuff that seem to make no effect on current problems.
JohnBlack
How thoughtful a comment by Rocky Stefano. Give him the Noble Prize or something.
RXStephen
@Sean. Poverty and starvation on earth is primarily caused by political problems. We have a bountiful planet with enough food and water to support everyone without waste, it is disproportional provisioned by political boundaries and perpetuated by greed and war.
The highly skilled scientists working on increasing the depth and breadth of human knowledge will be poorly equipped to solve such problems. However they have much to offer humanity and the sum of all this knowledge will improve all our lives. The pursuit of knowledge has pulled us from the dismal dark ages and will take us to an even brighter future so long as the fools in charge don't screw it up.
If you do not find it interesting, then feel free to crawl under a rock.
GaryLesperance
The most obvious question related to the topic at hand is, "How come a planet can be found in a wide orbit around some distant solar system when we have to resort to enlisting amateur astronomers to search for the elusive 9th planet in our own solar system?"
Magrim
The pursuit of knowledge is the accolade of human beings granted by infinitesimally small chance in the universe that we even exist. FYI, I don't think a rocket scientists are English major flunkies...