In our solar system, Jupiter is king. It’s far larger than the other planets in our system and it absolutely dwarfs Earth. But in the grand scheme of things, Jupiter isn’t really all that impressive. It’s big, sure, but compared to other gas giants in our neck of the galactic woods, it’s just a little fella.
Researchers using data from the Gaia sky survey have identified a gas giant not far from Earth that puts Jupiter to shame. It’s not just a little bit bigger than our nearby gas giant… it’s roughly ten times the size. Yeah, it’s huge, and it’s only around 330 light years from Earth.
The newly-discovered planet, known as 2MASS 1155–7919 b, is a newborn in the planetary sense, and it orbits its star at a huge distance. The star itself is also quite young, with researchers estimating it to be only around five million years old. By comparison, our Sun is thought to be over 4.6 billion years old.
The discovery affords astronomers the rare opportunity to observe a gas giant in its formative years, spinning around its young star and just beginning its life. Even at 10 times the mass of Jupiter, it’s still growing, and will ultimately be much larger.
“The dim, cool object we found is very young and only 10 times the mass of Jupiter, which means we are likely looking at an infant planet, perhaps still in the midst of formation,” Annie Dickson-Vandervelde, lead author of the research, said in a statement.
“Though lots of other planets have been discovered through the Kepler mission and other missions like it, almost all of those are ‘old’ planets. This is also only the fourth or fifth example of a giant planet so far from its ‘parent’ star, and theorists are struggling to explain how they formed or ended up there.”