A relatively young planet that has survived the onslaught of three suns is something extraterrestrial that is worthy to talk about.
Actually, it shouldn’t even exist based on the rules of the universe as understood by scientists; a planet about 16 million years-old, located 320 light years away, is named HD 131399Ab–and it has three suns–and it may be four times more massive than Jupiter.
Published in the journal Science this week, a new paper reveals that HD 131399Ab in the constellation Centaurus is an indication that planets with more than one star are common in the Universe.
The most popular planet in a binary system, although it is only a product of fiction, is Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie franchise. HD 131399Ab, for comparison, has not only two, but three suns, and the planet was able to survive the instability of its home system.
Scientists explain that such system is known to be unstable because of the complexity and the changing gravitational attractions of the stars. And the planets in the same environment were thought to be very unlikely in the Universe that we know.
Discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona in United States, HD 131399Ab orbits around the brightest of the three stars, and it is so far the widest known within a multi-star system.
Daniel Apai of the University of Arizona, and one of the co-authors of the paper, says that it is one of the few exoplanets that have been directly imaged. It is also the first one in “such an interesting dynamical configuration.”
First author and discoverer of the planet, Kevin Wagner, explains that about half of the planet’s orbit is equivalent to 550 Earth-years, and from there, three stars are visible in the sky. “The fainter two are always much closer together,” he said.
But don’t expect alien life in there. Scientists say that HD 131399Ab has temperature of about 580 degrees Celsius; and it is more like a larger Jupiter.
In addition to being one of the rarest worlds out there, the planet in the three-star system is also the first planet to be discovered using the SPHERE instrument on the VLT. SPHERE on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.
The picture above is the artist’s impression of the HD 131399Ab.