Day by day, discoveries of new planets in the universe seem more and more similar to Sci-Fi books. Amateur astronomers found a planet with four suns and have thus discovered a new, unique, solar system.
Amateur astronomers with the Planet Hunters project discovered a giant plant in a solar system with two suns and two similar stars orbiting it. Planet Hunters named their four-suns planet PH1, after the project’s name.
Located some 5,000 light-years away from Earth, PH1 is a giant gas planet, just a bit bigger than our solar system’s Neptune. The uniqueness of the discovery is that this planet is alone in a solar system with four suns. The idea of a quadruple sunset does sound appealing, but the planet is too hot for life to exist. The planet’s temperature ranges from 484 degrees Fahrenheit to 644 degrees Fahrenheit.
A year on PH1 is 138 days, as the planet makes a single orbit around its two parent suns, one 1.5 and the other 0.41 the size of our sun. The other two sun-like stars in the system orbit PH1, at about 1,000 astronomical units away from the parent suns.
The four-suns planet was found using the transit method by two US amateur astronomers in the Planet Hunters project. Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano kept track of faint dips in the light, that occurred every time PH1’s orbit journey passed in front of the parent stars.
Both Planet Hunters and NASA scientists are excited about the discovery of the four-suns solar system. “I celebrate this discovery as a milestone for the Planet Hunters team: discovering their first exoplanet lurking in the Kepler data” said NASA scientists Natalie Batalha. “I celebrate this discovery for the wow-factor of a planet in a four-star system” she added.
While scientists saw their share of two-sun solar systems, the four-sun kind is the first ever discovered. “You don’t have to go back too far before you would have got really good odds against one of these systems existing” Dr. Chris Lintott of Oxford told BBC News. “There are six other well-established planets around double stars, and they’re all pretty close to those stars” he added.
In appearance, a solar system with four suns would make for “a very complicated environment”. “Yet there it sits in an apparently stable orbit. That’s really confusing, which is one of the things which makes this discovery so fun. It’s absolutely not what we would have expected” Dr. Lintott concluded of the Planet Hunter’s unique discovery.