Astronomers discover planet with four suns

Oct 16, 2012
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A group of astronomers, including some volunteers has made a very interesting discovery of a new planet in a unique system. The new planet that was discovered is a gas giant about six times the size of the Earth. The planet itself isn't as interesting as the fact that it orbits a unique star system.

The gas giant orbits a binary star system, and that binary star system has a second stellar pair of stars orbiting around them. That means the planet has four suns. The planet and its unique star system were discovered by volunteers using the Planethunters.org website and confirmed by a team of astronomers from the UK and the US. The planet and its four different stars were also observed using the Keck Observatory.

The planet is slightly less than 5000 light years away from the Earth and has been named PH1. The PH1 name is a hat tip to the Planethunters website. Astronomers say that binary stars aren't uncommon in themselves. However, there are only a handful of known exoplanets orbiting binary pairs. To make this particular star system even rarer, none of the other known exoplanets have another pair of stars orbiting them.

Despite the fact that the gas giant has gravity from four different starts pulling on it, it remains a stable orbit. The volunteer astronomers who discovered the planet using Planethunters.org are Kian Jek of San Francisco and Robert Gagliano from Cottonwood, Arizona. The pair spotted changes in light caused by the planet passing in front of the parent stars. Once the volunteers discovered the dip in light using the website, the professional astronomers confirm the discovery using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

[via BBC]


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