Astronomers the world over are drawing shaky breaths and wearing away their teeth thanks to a realization by a multi-national team which shows that planet 2MASS J2126−8140, previously believed to be rogue, is in fact orbiting a well-known star in an orbital period that takes just under a million years to complete—and just to be absolutely clear, the Earth’s orbital period takes one year.
If it’s not obvious enough, a million year orbit for a planet doesn’t exactly fit into the conventional understanding of space. Particularly so when the planet in question has twelve to fifteen times the mass of Jupiter, but especially so when the star it’s orbiting, TYC 9486-927-1, happens to be a red dwarf: a smaller class of stars with 7.5 to 50 percent the mass of our own sun.
To flesh out some more perspective, our sun has just less than ten times the diameter of Jupiter—though much, much more mass. The red dwarf in question would be two to thirteen times smaller than our sun, the planet, as mentioned, is twelve to fifteen times larger than Jupiter, and the orbit of said planet is out around one trillion kilometers from its host star: or, about seven thousand times farther out than Earth is from our sun. This makes its orbit nearly three times greater than the previous record holder. The planet is so far out that it takes light over a month to reach it. And, the considerable mass discrepancy between the two bodies has already caused scientists looking for an origin and/or explanation to have to rule out the way stars and planets are generally thought to be formed: a large cloud of dust that starts to clump up—a contested theory that we examine [in this article].
The sheer facts behind this curious coupling should raise the eyebrows on just about anyone, particularly if a person was to try and reconcile said facts with the details we have regarding the orbits of celestial bodies in our star system. However, a lousy scapegoat does exist, and its giant clumsy blanket of coverage helps to keep finds like this from causing too much of a panic.
In order for our cosmos to stay in place, the speed of gravity needs to be ludicrous, thousands of times faster than light. And even though estimates have been made, no one has ever seemed all-too concerned with nailing down any precise speed for gravity. The reason? Newton found a way to make his calculations work by giving gravity an infinite speed
Along with this, gravity is believed to have, in essence, an infinite range. When you’re calculating the efficacy of gravity at long ranges, you can double the distance between the two objects and the gravitational force will fall to a quarter of what it just was. This happens because gravity is behaving as an inverse-square force. Which means the rough calculation just used can continue to be used indefinitely as gravity can continue to shrink indefinitely because it will just grow smaller and smaller without ever reaching zero.
This scapegoat, in my eyes, has the authority of a toddler with his fingers in his ears yelling the same phrase over and over. Gravity is already an intensely weak force, so much so that astronomers struggle to understand how it’s holding anything in place, at least the ones who’ve lost or never had faith in the still undiscovered forces of dark matter and dark energy—created to help explain gravity’s weakness. But with that weakness in mind, it seems ludicrous to go on saying that it could have any discernible power over a great distance.
Examine again the figures listed above that compare the celestial couple. Even allowing gravity an infinite speed, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a small red dwarf can hold on to an object, large enough to be a small dwarf star itself, that’s a trillion miles out and hurtling away at unfathomable speeds. Keeping that in orbit just doesn’t seem to add up—at least not with the force of gravity.
But, that’s not such a bad problem because the force of gravity has already been on its way out—as mentioned earlier. It could never hold things together on its own, which is why dark matter and dark energy were invented. But with the latest wave of experiments—such as LUX, at Stanford—failing to detect any trace of either of them, faith in their convenient existence is beginning to wane.
Now, that continued failure over the last several decades to detect any actual trace of dark matter is quite the problem—at least if you’re committed to dark matter and dark energy explaining away all the problems in our understanding of the cosmos. But, there are other ways to explain this million year cycle and other cosmic conundrums. See, astronomers and astrophysicists today rely on Einstein’s and Newton’s bodies of work in order to understand the cosmos and make their calculations about the movements of celestial bodies. However, the most abundant state of matter in the universe, plasma, didn’t come to light until after Einstein was done with his theories.
Though its taken some time to be understood, scientists have now had a working knowledge of plasma for some time. And, being the most abundant state of matter in the universe, the slowly discovered implications behind its existence are naturally enormous. Its role in the cosmos has been found to be so critical, in fact, that a new way to understand space has risen up: plasma cosmology.
Plasma cosmology is capable of explaining the bizarre instances like the coupling focused on in this article. While the force known as gravity is absurdly weak, electromagnetism—the core of plasma cosmology—is incredibly strong, and it can operate over enormous distances. [more on that here]
As well, the principles behind holographic theory can also account for this anomaly. [which we discuss here]