Forget Tatooine, NASA Discovered A Planet With THREE Suns


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Scientists from the University of Arizona announced Thursday they discovered a planet that orbits three stars.

The planet experiences either constant daylight or enjoys triple sunrises and sunsets each day, depending on the seasons, which last longer than a human lifespan.

Scientists were able to detect and directly image HD 131399Ab using infrared light sensors associated with a powerful telescope based in northern Chile. Direct imaging showed the planet was similar to the binary star system of Tatooine, which has two suns, in “Star Wars.”

“For about half of the planet’s orbit, which lasts 550 Earth-years, three stars are visible in the sky, the fainter two always much closer together, and changing in apparent separation from the brightest star throughout the year,” Kevin Wagner, the Ph.D student who discovered HD 131399Ab and the paper’s first author, wrote in a press statement. “For much of the planet’s year the stars appear close together, giving it a familiar night-side and day-side with a unique triple-sunset and sunrise each day.”

Astronomers estimate that HD 131399Ab is roughly 16 million years old, making it one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date. The planet isn’t exactly a vacation spot, with an average temperature of 1,070 degrees Fahrenheit and four times the mass of Jupiter. It is located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

“It is not clear how this planet ended up on its wide orbit in this extreme system, and we can’t say yet what this means for our broader understanding of the types of planetary systems out there, but it shows there is more variety out there than many would have deemed possible,” Wagner continued. “What we do know is that planets in multi-star systems are much less explored, and potentially just as numerous as planets in single-star systems.”

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