It’s hard to imagine that at one time scientists were unsure whether planets even existed outside out solar system. Now, it seems like lately there is a new planet discovered every week – it’s almost become commonplace. But now the coolest planet of the bunch has been discovered just 340 light years from Earth orbiting the star HD 131399A.
What Makes This Planet Special?
The planet, HD 131399Ab, is the first one ever found that is in a star system with three stars. It had previously been thought that three stars would prohibit a planet from forming and maintaining a stable orbit. That theory has just been proven wrong. The video below shows how the planet and stars orbit, and is just amazing. It shows that the two smaller stars in the system orbit each other, and as a pair orbit the larger star. The planet also orbits the larger star, inside the orbit of the other two stars.
What’s This Planet Like?
A visitor to HD 131399Ab might have a hard time seeing the three suns – it is four times the mass of Jupiter, has a surface temperature of 1076º F, and take 550 Earth years to complete a single orbit around the large star. For 140 of those years, the alignment of the three stars is such that wherever you might be on the inhospitable planet, you’d be in constant sunlight. For reference, the middle sized star is about the size of our Sun, the smaller about half the size. The planet is also extremely young at only 16 million years. Scientists believe it’s possible that other planets exist inside the orbit of the massive planet.
Image credit: ESO