News24

Planet with four suns discovered

2012-10-16 07:29

Washington - An international team of amateur and professional astronomers announced the discovery of a planet whose skies are lit up by four suns - the first reported case of such a phenomenon.

The planet, located about 5 000 light years from Earth, has been dubbed PH1 in honour of Planet Hunters, a programme led by Yale University in the US which enlists volunteers to look for signs of new planets.

PH1 is orbiting two suns, and in turn is orbited by a second distant pair of stars. Only six planets are known to orbit two stars, researchers say, and none of those are orbited by other distant stars.

"Circumbinary planets are the extremes of planet formation," said Yale's Meg Schwamb, lead author of a paper presented on Monday at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nevada.

"The discovery of these systems is forcing us to go back to the drawing board to understand how such planets can assemble and evolve in these dynamically challenging environments."

Gas giant

US citizen scientists and Planet Hunters participants Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano were the first to identify PH1. Their observations were then confirmed by a team of US and British researchers working in Hawaii.

PH1 is a gas giant with a radius about 6.2 times that of Earth, making it a bit bigger than Neptune. It orbits a pair of eclipsing stars that are 1.5 and 0.41 times the mass of the Sun roughly every 138 days.

The two other stars are orbiting the planetary system at a distance that is roughly 1 000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

The Planethunters.org website was created in 2010 to encourage amateur astronomers to identify planets outside our solar system, using data from the US space agency Nasa's Kepler space telescope.

Kepler, launched in March 2009, is Nasa's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting stars similar to our Sun.

The discovery of PH1 was made available online on Monday at the site arxiv.org and has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication.

"It still continues to astonish me how we can detect, let alone glean so much information, about another planet thousands of light-years away just by studying the light from its parent star," Jek said.

Comments
  • scouter.fourone - 2012-10-16 07:41

    A 'Four Star' rating, no less - Shouldn't be too long before Virgin buys the rights ....

      darren.king.58118 - 2012-10-16 07:48

      Felix discovered the planet

      marc.hugo.75 - 2012-10-16 08:27

      Or Moody's downgrade it.

  • smellarat.smith - 2012-10-16 07:49

    Endless Summer!

  • thadelphukem.completely - 2012-10-16 07:49

    Could i suggest a Sunblock with a SPF 5000!!! Hot, Hot, HOT!!!

  • sipho.mgazi - 2012-10-16 08:19

    Wow, oh my GOD! Dis is interesting TWO Suns in ONE PLANET.....

      dracolusus - 2012-10-16 13:08

      You give yourself that 1 thumbs up?

  • Blackpoison - 2012-10-16 08:21

    Wonder if there is ever night on that planet...

      coenraad.vanderwesthuizen.3 - 2012-10-16 08:26

      It is possible.

      marc.hugo.75 - 2012-10-16 08:26

      Even if there isn't, songwriters will invent it.

  • jody.beggs - 2012-10-16 08:32

    Awesome , science rules while religion drools ... Can't wait for xians to change their tune when we find life on another planet ... Those people Damn the man.

      klipkop.degroote - 2012-10-16 08:49

      Religion bashing is cool and fun hey? Noddy badge for you or would you prefer a gold upside down star. And enjoy hell when you get there.

      ben.louw.5 - 2012-10-16 09:16

      Like you , I'm also atheist. Also not a fan of religion....but seriously dude... Context context context... Sean Penn phoned..again... wants you to dial it back a notch.

      jody.beggs - 2012-10-16 11:34

      Just look at how the treated Galileo ! Catholics only apologized in the 90's. All religious dogma is the same , out dated and evil ... Damn the man.

      jody.beggs - 2012-10-16 12:33

      @Ben really sean penn , wow ! "Context context context." Its the right context , anything that disagree's with religion is my context. Science is man made and material , then according to the bad book , its evil ! So that leaves everything open for me to comment on in context ... My what a narrow mind you have , are you sure sure your not BumWind ? Unless of course your a hypocrite ?

      ben.louw.5 - 2012-10-17 15:46

      My point was just that this article had nothing to do with religion. It's all science. Religion wasn't mentioned by ANYONE. So instead of discussing the awesomeness, you'd rather (like malema) use it as a soup box and start ranting. Haha! What about my comment is hypocritical? Chill dude.

      Pierrie van der Merwe - 2013-10-24 10:30

      OK now I know you are Julius Malema

  • ben.louw.5 - 2012-10-16 09:12

    Awesome! Go science!

  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-10-16 16:07

    Planet Namek! Oh, that one had 3...

  • bmaestro - 2012-10-17 10:35

    how far true is this?

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