This is the first photograph taken of a planet that isn’t part of our solar system. What we’re seeing here is a star, slightly smaller than our own sun, in the Upper Scorpius Association, with its planet in orbit up there on the left. Space.com reports that the planet is eight times the size of Jupiter, with an estimated temperature of 1,500 C (2,700 F).
The solar system has been given a name: 1RXS J160929.1-210524. This is not as catchy as Upper Scorpius Association, which sounds like a soccer team from the wrong side of town, or maybe a really bad men’s club. Anyway, all this is significant for a few reasons:
- We’ve never been able to photograph an extrasolar planet before. We know they’re out there, and we can detect them based on orbital wobble and luminescent transference, which I just made up, but we haven’t had photographic proof. Now we do.
- We thought Jupiter was big, but now we know ol’ Jove’s a wimp next to some of the bad boys out there.
- The new planet is 500 light years away, which means humans couldn’t ever travel there. Franchising officials at Subway issued a terse “no comment.”
- If life exists on this planet, it will bear no resemblance to anything we know or understand, kind of like Utah.
- This planet does not yet have a name, so I am going to come up with one. I am naming it Marius, and not because it’s big and gaseous and far away, despite what you may think.