science

Scientists find more evidence that rare Jupiter-sized planet which orbits three suns at once exists


Scientists find more evidence that rare Jupiter-sized planet which orbits THREE suns at once exists 1,300 light years away from Earth

  • One hypothetical planet may orbit three stars at once, a new study suggests
  • The GW Orionis star system, roughly 1,300 light-years away, has three rings
  • The outer most ring is tilted at 38° and the proposed planet could cause the rings to be spread so far apart from one another
  • It’s likely the planet is a gas giant given the size of the gap in the dust cloud










Planets that are part of triple star systems are rare, but one planet in deep space may be the first of its kind: it may orbit all three stars at once, a new study suggests.

The GW Orionis star system, roughly 1,300 light-years from Earth, is comprised of three rings, akin to a bull’s eye for target practice.

The outer most ring is tilted at 38 degrees and the proposed planet – assuming it exists – could be why the rings are spread so far apart from one another.

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‘We find that for observationally motivated parameters of protoplanetary discs, the disc does not break due to the torque from the star system,’ the researchers wrote in the study.

‘We suggest that the presence of a massive planet (or planets) in the disc separates the inner and outer discs. We conclude that the disc breaking in GW Ori is likely caused by undetected planets – the first planet(s) in a circumtriple orbit.’      

One hypothetical planet may orbit all three stars at once, a new study suggests. The GW Orionis star system (pictured), roughly 1,300 light-years away, has three rings

One hypothetical planet may orbit all three stars at once, a new study suggests. The GW Orionis star system (pictured), roughly 1,300 light-years away, has three rings

It’s likely that the planet would be a gas giant, similar to Jupiter, given the size of the gap in the dust cloud. 

If the planet does exist, it could give researchers new insight into how planets form.  

Earlier this year, NASA rediscovered another planet with three suns, KOA-5ab, approximately 1,800 light-years from Earth, after it was abandoned because NASA’s Kepler space telescope had easier candidates to observe. 

The two stars in the middle of GW Orionis move so close together that they would likely appear in the sky to an observe as one, with the other flying around it, the researchers believe. 

This would be akin to Tatooine, the planet Luke Skywalker calls home in Star Wars, with its two suns. 

As the hypothetical planet rotates, the stars it orbits would rise and fall. 

‘Star Wars missed a trick,’ one of the study’s co-authors, Rebecca Nealon, told the New York Times.  

The outer most ring is tilted at 38° and the proposed planet could cause the rings to be spread so far apart from one another

The outer most ring is tilted at 38° and the proposed planet could cause the rings to be spread so far apart from one another

In 2020, researchers tracked evidence of the ‘gravitational dance’ between the stars and found the forces are so great they tear apart and distort the surrounding planet-forming dust cloud, which is normally shaped like a disc.  

The new researchers created 3D simulations to understand how the gaps in the rings may have been created, looking at other dust rings in space.

They determined that the gaps were created either by torque from the three stars or the gaps were the result of a planet within one of the rings.

Eventually, they realized there was not enough torque from the three stars to create the gaps and that a planet was more likely the reason behind them. 

If future observations of the system support that theory, GW Ori may be ‘the first evidence of a circumtriple planet carving a gap in real time,’ the study’s lead author Jeremy Smallwood, said in an interview with The New York Times.    

At present, the planet can not be seen, but it may be observed when NASA launches the James Webb Telescope later this year. 

The study was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.



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