New York: In a distant star system just 1,300 light-years away from Earth, American astronomers may have identified the first known planet to orbit three stars, a finding that has implications for bolstering understanding of planet formation.
Unlike our solar system, which consists of a lone star, half of all star systems, such as GW Ori, where astronomers observed the novel phenomenon, are believed to consist of two or more stars that are gravitationally bound to each other. discovered no planet orbiting three stars, a triple circular orbit.
Astronomers at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV) used observations from the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope and analyzed the three dust rings observed around the three stars, which are critical for planet formation. .
But they found a substantial, if puzzling, gap in the circumtriple disc.
The research team investigated different origins, including the possibility that the gap was created by the gravitational torque of the three stars. But after building a full model of GW Ori, they found that the most likely and fascinating explanation for disk space is the presence of one or more massive planets, similar in nature to Jupiter.
Gas giants are usually the first planets to form within a star system. Terrestrial planets such as Earth and Mars follow, according to lead author Jeremy Smallwood, an astronomy doctoral student at UNLV.
The finding is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
More observations from the ALMA telescope are expected in the coming months, which could provide direct evidence of the phenomenon.
“It’s really exciting because it makes the theory of planet formation really solid,” Smallwood said. “It could mean that planet formation is much more active than we think, which is pretty good.”