Astronomers Spot Exoplanet that Orbits Star at Extraordinary DistanceBy Russell Westerholm
A team of astronomers spotted a solar system in which one planet orbits the star at a distance of one trillion kilometers.
According to Space.com, this qualifies the solar system as the largest one ever spotted. The researchers first noticed the gas giant exoplanet 2MASS J2126 and thought it did not have a host star.
Published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the new study details the astounding orbit. 2MASS J2126 orbits its star once every 900,000 Earth years, sitting about 7,000 times further from its star than the Earth is from the sun.
"This is the widest planet system found so far and both the members of it have been known for eight years, but nobody had made the link between the objects before," study lead author Niall Deacon, of the University of Hertfordshire, said in a press release. "The planet is not quite as lonely as we first thought, but it's certainly in a very long distance relationship."
The researchers estimated 2MASS J2126 to be up to 15 times the mass of Jupiter, making it potentially classifiable as a brown dwarf. Regardless, the sheer distance of the exoplanet's orbit is mystifying astronomers.
"Compared to beta Pictoris b, 2MASS J2126 is more than 700 times further away from its host star," study co-author Simon Murphy, of the Australian National University, said in the release, "but how such a wide planetary system forms and survives remains an open question."