Astronomers Discover Exoplanet With Widest Orbit Ever Seen

Posted: Jan 26 2016, 11:51pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 27 2016, 10:35pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Astronomers Discover Exoplanet with Widest Orbit Ever Seen
Artist's impression of 2MASS J2126. Credit: University of Hertfordshire / Neil Cook

The object was initially thought to be a free floating or lonely planet but its parent shar has also been spotted by researchers.

A lonely planet in space has a parent star after all. 

Until now, 2MASS J2126 was thought to be a free floating planet. But a combined team of astronomers from Britain, the US and Australia have found that the object is around 1 trillion kilometres away from its parent star or about 7000 times the distance from the Earth to the sun, giving it the widest orbit of any plant found around its parent star. At such enormous distance, it takes roughly 900,000 years to complete one orbit.

The giant world 2MASS J2126 was discovered in an infrared sky survey by US researchers and was considered the member of a 45 million years old group of stars and brown dwarfs known as the Tucana Horologium Association. Objects are dubbed planets, exoplanets or brown dwarfs on the basis of both their age and mass. The object 2MASS J2126 was young and was not having enough mass. Therefore, researchers classified it as a free floating planet.

In the same region of the sky, a young star TYC 9486-927-1 has also been found but no connection has been shown between YC 9486-927-1 and object 2MASS J2126 in any previous study.

In the past few years, Dr Niall Deacon from the University of Hertfordshire carried out a research about young stars and the objects found in their wide orbit to see if they can be connected to each other in any way. After looking through a number of young stars, researchers found that star TYC 9486-927-1 and a free-floating planet 2MASS J2126 are moving through space together and both are about 104 light years away from the sun, indicating they are linked to each other.

“This is the widest planet system found so far and both the members of it have been known for eight years,” said Niall 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.”

To determine the age of the star, researchers looked at the dispersed light emitting from the star to measure the element lithium. The more lithium is found, the younger a star is. Researchers found that TYC 9486-927-1 had stronger signatures than a group of young star but weaker signatures than a group of 10 million old stars, so it falls somewhere between the two categories.

2MASS J2126, on the other hand, was estimated 11 to 15 times bigger than Jupiter, placing it between planets and brown dwarfs.

“Compared to beta Pictoris b, 2MASS J2126, is more than 7000 times further away from its host star,” said co-author Dr Simon Murphy. “but how such a wide planetary system forms and survives remains an open question.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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