Using infrared lenses, NASA’s Hubble Telescope has captured an image of what currently appears to be the galaxy’s largest solar system. Astronomers have determined that planet 2MASS J2126 is actually in an orbit with a star one trillion kilometers away from it.
According to Dr. Niall Deacon of the University of Hertfordshire, astronomers have known about the planet and the star for eight years, but never realized the connection between the two—until now. They have determined the new planet’s orbit around its parent-star is 7,000 times the size of Earth’s orbit around the sun.
“The planet is not quite as lonely as we first thought,” Deacon told NASA, “but it is definitely in a long distance relationship.”
The new observations reveal that, in fact, the two are actually moving in sync. The planet and its star have the widest orbit ever discovered. Astronomers determined it would take about 900,000 years for the orbit to be completed. This slow motion could in fact be the main reason scientists had not noticed it before. Astronomers have also loosely compared this planet’s type to be similar to Jupiters’.
This realization comes fresh off of the California Institute of Technology’s discovery of a potential ninth planet in our own solar system. The planet is yet to be seen but motions of the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune show that something could be pulling asteroids in a certain direction. If true, this discovery would be the third true planet in our solar system discovered since the time of ancient astronomers.
Photo: An artist’s representation of a typical solar system.