New exoplanet could be orbiting three suns. Photo credit: ESO
Scientists have located an exoplanet some 320 light years from Earth that is unlike any other world previously discovered in that it orbits around three stars, or suns, according to a story in USAToday.
It is thought that Earth-like life could not survive on the planet, because it is a gaseous planet, like our Jupiter, with high temperatures and no liquid water.
Kevin Wagner, lead author on the study and the one who discovered the planet added the planet had no surface, and “just below the uppermost layer of the atmosphere it rains liquid iron droplets. Earth-like life — life as we know it — would be extremely unlikely, if not impossible, to exist in this atmosphere.”
But, continued Wagner, if the planet had moons, they just might contain some form of life, as might the moons of Jupiter.
The exoplanet, dubbed, is located in the constellation Centaurus, and is estimated to be about 16 million years old. The astronomers were surprised at the stability of the planet’s orbit, since most worlds that have more than one star have their orbits influenced by the multiple gravitational pulls.
Daniel Apai of the University of Arizona and one of the study co-authors, said, “We were surprised to find the planet in an orbit so long that it could be influenced by all three stars.”
If they are mistaken, the gravitational pull of one of the other stars could create a slingshot effect that would send the planet out of the system.
The researchers estimate it would take about 600 years for the planet to revolve around its main star, the brightest and most massive star in the system called Star A by the astronomers.
The astronomers discovered the planet using the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. They described the planet as one of the youngest planets outside of our solar system that has been yet discovered.
A day at the beach would have a whole new meaning on, as depending on the season, an observer may see constant daylight, or three sunrises and sunsets in a single day. The problem is a single day on the world would last longer than human lifetimes.
The findings from the study were published in the journal Science.