A planet illuminated by four suns.
This is the first observed case of this kind.
The planet named PH1 after the site of amateur astronomers was discovered by two non-professional astronomers.
It is a gas giant, similar in size to Neptune, and its diameter is 6 times larger than Earth’s.
A rare find.
Astronomer Chris Lintott from the University of Oxford believes that such a space object could only have arisen as a result of a combination of very rare circumstances.
“All four stars that affect the planet with their attraction create an extremely complex gravitational environment. However, the planet is moving in a stable orbit, – said the astronomer. “It’s hard to explain, and even harder to predict.”
Binary star systems are widespread. However, planets in such systems are relatively rare. The discovery of a planetary system near a binary star entering the system from another binary star is an exceptional rarity.
“So far, six exoplanets have been known to exist in stable orbits in binary star systems, and all of them orbit very close to the stars,” says Dr. Lintott.
“This tells us that planets are capable of forming in the inner regions of protoplanetary disks, which are made up of dust and gases. This may shed light on the general mechanisms of planet formation, ” says the British astronomer.
Planet PH1 was discovered by two American hobbyists using the Planethunters website-Kiyan Jack from San Francisco and Robert Galiano from Cottonwood in Arizona.
They found faint deviations in the light emission of this star system, which signaled the passage of a planet in front of one of the stars. A team of professional astronomers confirmed their discovery using the Keck Observatory telescopes on the Mauna Kea throat on the island of Hawaii.
Planethunters website (“Planet Hunters”) It was created in 2010 with the aim of using human image recognition abilities in astronomy; this site publishes images of stars obtained with the help of the American Kepler orbiting telescope.
With your own eyes.
Kepler was launched into space in March 2009 to search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. It is able to perceive the slightest fluctuations in the intensity of the radiation of stars, which signal the passage of an exoplanet in front of its visible disk.
Visitors to the Planethunters website get access to this astronomical data and can participate in the recognition of the resulting images.
“Computer data analysis completely missed this system. This means that there may be other star systems that have passed our attention. We have just posted a large amount of new data on the site that will help us find new stars with exoplanets, ” says Dr. Lintott. “We use human image recognition techniques that are able to identify objects that are not available for computer analysis.”