Scientists have discovered a rare planet with 3 suns some 685 light years away. The planet boasts a trio of suns that coexist in a complex flicker.
The rare planet was discovered by space scientists led by Jason Eastman, a research associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The planet is estimated to be as massive as Jupiter.
The alien planet is called KELT-4AB. Researchers used to think the KELT-4 system, which is home to this planet was a much more common binary system. But according to recent research published in the Astronomical Journal, one of those original stars is instead a binary pair, reports Washington Post.
While astronomers have earlier spotted planets with 2 suns, KELT-4Ab is unique because it revolves around one star, KELT-4A, which in turn is orbited by a nearby pair of stars. Therefore, it has 3 suns in total.
Eastman explained that this planet’s secondary stars – KELT-B and KELT-C – are so close that they seem as bright as full moons in the sky.
“Those two stars would orbit each other every about 30 years, and every 4,000 years they’d make one orbit around KELT-4A,” the lead researcher said in a report on Fox News.
What makes KELT-4A a better candidate for study than any of the stars in previously discovered triple systems is its proximity and its brightness. KELT-4Ab orbits it in just three days. If someone could stand on the edge of this gaseous planet, the star would appear 40 times larger than our own sun, said scientists.
The astronomers used the two robotic telescopes that make up the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT), located in Arizona and South Africa respectively, to spot this hot planet, its main star, and the twin stars orbiting it.
Another unique feature of the KELT -4AB is that it is considered one of the “hot jupiters” or giant mass of gas that lie close to their parent star.
“Hot Jupiters aren’t supposed to exist. None of them. Gaseous planets the size of Jupiter are supposed to form much farther out [from their parent star] and stay there, like our own Jupiter did.”
“Exactly how they got so close is an outstanding question, but one theory is that it migrates due to hot interactions with a third body — in this case, the third and fourth bodies KELT-BC.”