The First Photo of a Planet Outside Our Solar SystemS

This isn't our Sun. This other sun is 470 light-years away from our home. Its name is 1RXS J160929.1-210524, and the orange sphere near it has been confirmed today as an orbiting planet. The first photo of an extra-solar planet.

The photo was originally taken in 2008 by David Lafreniere and collaborators working at the Gemini Observatory. Scientists weren't sure about it being an orbiting planet until now, however. New observations have shown that the planet follows an orbit around the star 300 times larger than Earth's orbit.

The planet has eight times the mass of Jupiter, and has a much higher temperature: 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to the minus 166 degrees of the biggest planet in our solar system. Scientists believe this temperature is a product of the age of this star system, much younger than ours.

Far from throwing any light in planetary theories, this discovery challenges the current model. Lafreniere and his colleagues think the orbit is too large for the planet to form by core accretion. If that was the case, then the star system could be much older than is actual age.

Or maybe... maybe that's not a planet. Cue in the suspense music. [Gemini]