Parent of ‘Lost’ Lonely Planet Discovered

University of Hertfordshire/ Neil James Cook

Astronomers from the UK, US and Australia have found the “mum” of a planet previously thought to be a free floating planet. The lonely planet, named 2MASS J2126-8140, is about one trillion kilometres, or 7,000 times the distance of Earth from the Sun from its parent star TYC 9486-927-1, taking it nearly a million Earth years to orbit around the host red dwarf star.

Scientists say that the red dwarf star would appear as a moderately bright star in the sky. Plus, it would take about a month for its light to reach the planet.

Researcher Simon Murphy of ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics noted that the team was very surprised to find an object with such a low mass so far from its parent star. Murphy asserts that its solar system is the largest one found.

Australian National University/Simon Murphy

Australian National University/Simon Murphy

According to the team, only few extremely wide pairs such as the 2MASS J2126-8140 and its parent star have been found. This pair is nearly three times wider than the previous one, which measured about 370 billion kilometres apart.

Interestingly, 2MASS J2126 was previously identified as a probable low mass object by astronomers in the US during an infrared sky survey. In 2014, however, Canadian scientists approved that it was light and young enough to be considered as a free planet.

Murphy suggests that they may have been formed 10 million to 45 million years ago from a filament of gas that pushed them together in the same direction, not from a large disc of dust and gas, in a way that our own solar system did.

“They must not have lived their lives in a very dense environment,” Murphy stated in a press release. “They are so tenuously bound together that any nearby star would have disrupted their orbit completely.”


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