Astronomers Discover Planet with Four Suns

Monday, 09 March 2015 - 1:14PM
Astronomy
Solar System
Monday, 09 March 2015 - 1:14PM
Astronomers Discover Planet with Four Suns

Scientists have observed many "Tatooine-like" star systems with multiple suns over the years, even capturing the birth of one recently. But while Tatooine, and most other multiple-star systems, have only two stars, astronomers have just found a quadruple star system, nicknamed 30 Ari for only the second time. 

 

Our solar system has only one star, our Sun, but multiple-star systems are extremely common; indeed, binary systems are more prevalent in our galaxy than single-star systems. But solar systems with four suns seem to be relatively rare, as we have only observed the phenomenon once before. While we discovered 30 Ari's planet years ago, it was thought to have only three stars rather than four. 

 

The system, which is 125 light years from Earth, consists of a gas giant planet, its moons, and two sets of binary stars circling each other. The planet orbits one of the stars, its primary sun, approximately every year. If it were possible to reside on the planet, one would see a small sun and two smaller stars in the daylight, while a very large telescope would reveal one of those smaller stars to be a binary system.

 

Unfortunately, no one is likely to experience a quadruple sunset anytime soon, as it is extremely unlikely that any of the bodies in the system could sustain life. But we should keep looking, as the authors of the study believe that 30 Ari's existence may indicate that quadruple-star systems are not be as rare as previously thought. According to co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving."

Science
Space
Astronomy
Solar System