It was recently announced by a team of astronomers in the UK, U.S. and Australia that a planet, previously thought to be free floating alone in space, is actually orbiting around a star 1 trillion kilometers away from it. The astronomers, who published their findings in the Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, say this is the widest planet system ever recorded.
Though both the planet, named 2MASS J2126, and its star had been known about for eight years, no one had made the link between both objects. When they originally discovered the planet, they thought it was a rogue planet free floating adrift in space, thus dubbing it as the “lonely planet.” Observations of the star and planet revealed that their movements were associated.
The planet is orbiting around a star that is 7,000-times the size of Earth’s orbit around the sun. At 1 trillion kilometers from the star, 2MASS J2126 takes about 900,000 years to complete!
Though 2MASS J2126 and its star are about 104 light years away from us, astronomers have discovered a potential ninth planet orbiting at the edge of the solar system. If determined to be a ninth planet, it would replace our once beloved Pluto.
Researchers refer to their findings as “Planet Nine” and say it has a mass of about 10 time that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. This means it would take around 10,000 to 20,000 years to orbit the sun.
According to a researcher on the project, only two true planets have been found since ancient times, so this ninth planet would be the third to be discovered.
Though researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown have not actually seen the planet, they say other research they’ve conducted has helped lead them to conclude that there is one. The other research they refer to are objects discovered in the Kuiper Belt-a field of icy debris beyond Neptune—that had orbits pointed in the same direction. With mathematical modeling and computer simulation, they have concluded that a planet is exerting the necessary gravity to shape such orbits.
Now, they just need to locate the planet through telescope. Given it’s elongated orbit, locating it could be tricky, but they do have a shot at finding it.