WASHINGTON: Astronomers have discovered a second planet “reared” by four parent stars, suggesting planets in quadruple star systems might be less rare than once thought.
NASA said Wednesday in a statement that the planet, a gas giant 10 times more massive than Jupiter and located 136 light-years away in the constellation Aries, was known before, but it was thought to have only three stars, not four.
This is only the second time a planet has been identified in a quadruple star system. The first four-star planet, KIC 4862625, was discovered in 2013 by citizen scientists using public data from NASA’s Kepler mission.
Recent research has shown that this type of star system, which usually consists of two pairs of twin stars slowly circling each other at great distances, is itself more common than previously believed.
“About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving,” said study author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The planet of the newfound system, 30 Ari, orbits its primary star in about a year’s time, and the primary star has a relatively close partner star, which the planet does not orbit.
NASA said this pair is locked in a long-distance orbit with another pair of stars about 1,670 astronomical units away (about 251 billion kilometers).
“Were it possible to see the skies from this world, the four parent stars would look like one small sun and two very bright stars that would be visible in daylight,” the NASA statement said.
However, it’s highly unlikely that this planet, or any moons that might circle it, could sustain life, it said.
The discovery was made using telescopes at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego, California. PNA