A strange and beautiful new world in the Constellation Centaurus that has not one, not two, but three suns. What’s more, a year there lasts half a millennium from Earth’s perspective. Believe astronomers revealed such a place.
Discoverer and lead author Kevin Wagner said he’s thrilled “to have seen such a beautiful part of nature that nobody else has seen.”
Triple-star systems with detected planets are rare enough; this is believed to be just the fifth such discovery. But the giant gassy world in this one — formally known as Planet HD 131399Ab — has the biggest known orbit in a multi-star system.
The astronomers used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to spot the planet 320 light-years away. It is one of the few exoplanets — planets outside our own solar system — to be directly imaged. Most exoplanets are identified by periodic dips in starlight as the planets pass between us and their stars.
Its orbit is double Pluto’s — or roughly 550 Earth years. That’s how long it takes to orbit its system’s brightest star, a super-size sun. The two smaller stars orbit one another and, as a pair, orbit with their big stellar brother.
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