Astronomers have discovered the largest known solar system, consisting of a large planet that takes nearly a million years to orbit its star. The gas giant is one trillion kilometres away, making its orbit 140 times wider than Pluto’s path around our Sun. Only a handful of extremely wide pairs of this kind have been found in recent years.
The planet, known as 2MASS J2126-8140, is between 12 and 15 times the mass of Jupiter. This system is nearly three times the size of the previous widest star-planet pair. The star and its planet were found by a survey of young stars and brown dwarfs in Earth’s neighbourhood. Once team members discovered they were a similar distance from the Earth – about 100 light-years – they compared the motion of the two through space and realised they were moving together.
Did You Know???
- The Solar System was formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago and consists of the Sun, planets, dwarf planets and other astronomical objects bound in its orbit.
- 99.86% of the system’s mass is found in the Sun and the majority of the remaining 0.14% is contained within the solar system’s eight planets.
- The four smaller inner planets, also known as the “terrestrial planets” (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), are primarily composed of rock and metal.
- The four outer planets, also known as the “gas giants” (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), are substantially larger and more massive than the inner planets.
- Neighbourhood means the area or region around or near some place or thing.
- Substantial means of considerable importance, size, or worth.
- Terrestrial means on or relating to the earth.
- Handful means a quantity that fills the hand OR a small amount or number.