A planet has been discovered orbiting around the dwarf star TYC 9486-927-1 at a whopping distance of around 1 trillion kilometers, making this system the largest solar system ever found in the universe, reports Sci-News.
The planet, 2MASS J21265040-8140293 (or J2126 for short), is so distant from its star that it might be considered the loneliest gravitationally-bound planet in the cosmos. It takes J2126 almost 900,000 years to complete one orbit, and light from its star would take around a month to reach it.
Interestingly, the planet was first spotted in 2008 by Space Telescope Science Institute astronomer Neill Reid, but it was such an isolated world that scientists classified it as a free-floating planet, or a planet that had been jettisoned from whatever star system it formed within. Discovering that it was linked to TYC 9486-927-1 was certainly a surprise.
“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,” said Dr. Niall Deacon, one of the researchers who made the finding. “The planet is not quite as lonely as we first thought, but it’s certainly in a very long-distance relationship.”
The planet is between 12 and 15 times the mass of Jupiter, an enormous gas giant.
To put the size of this orbit in perspective, it's 140 times wider than Pluto's path around our sun. In fact, it's nearly three times the size of the previous record holder for the widest star-planet pairing. How such a large planet formed and survived as part of its host star system is anybody's guess.
There's a certain personification that one can't help but apply to J2126. It can be kind of despairing to imagine the planet looping so far from its star. Though perhaps, in a different way, J2126's faithful dance with TYC 9486-927-1 can also serve as a source of inspiration for those in long-distance relationships. The two heavenly bodies remain devoted despite a tenuous gravitational grip, a sort of everlasting embrace that scoffs at the icy length of time and space.
Then again, the gravitational link between these two bodies is so minimal that any nearby passing star could seriously disrupt their orbit. So perhaps the only thing truly keeping this relationship alive is the pair's mutual isolation.