Washington : The idea of experiencing constant daylight or enjoying triple sunrises and sunsets each day might sound crazy to you, but a team of astronomers has found such a world that has not one, not two, but three suns.
Astronomers led by the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, used direct imaging to discover the planet, HD 131399Ab, which is unlike any other known world – on by far the widest known orbit within a multi-star system.
Located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus, HD 131399Ab is believed to be about 16 million years old, making it one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date, and one of very few directly imaged planets. With a temperature of 850 Kelvin (about 1,070 degrees Fahrenheit or 580 degrees Celsius) and weighing in at an estimated four Jupiter masses, it is also one of the coldest and least massive directly imaged exoplanets.
“HD 131399Ab is one of the few exoplanets that have been directly imaged, and it’s the first one in such an interesting dynamical configuration,” said researcher Daniel Apai.
“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,” said first author Kevin Wagner.
He added, “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. As the planet orbits and the stars grow further apart each day, they reach a point where the setting of one coincides with the rising of the other – at which point the planet is in near-constant daytime for about one-quarter of its orbit, or roughly 140 Earth-years.”
Wagner identified the planet among hundreds of candidate planets and led the follow-up observations to verify its nature.
The discovery is published online by the journal Science. (ANI)