Astronomers discover HD 131399Ab, planet with three suns

A team of international astronomers for the first time have sighted a Jovian planet orbiting a triple star system. The planet has been named as HD 131399Ab.

The strange planet was sighted by team of astronomers led by University of Arizona using the SPHERE instrument on European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Significance of Discovery: Usually binary solar systems (having two stars or suns) are relatively common in the universe, but solar systems involving three stars or more are very rare.

Key Facts

  • Planet HD 131399Ab is located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.
  • It is believed to be relatively young, about 16 million years old. This makes it one of the youngest planets discovered outside our solar system to date.
  • HD 131399Ab has mass four times that of the gas giant Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet. It orbits the brightest of the three stars on a very long and wide path.

SPHERE instrument

  • SPHERE stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-Contrast Exoplanet Research Instrument.
  • It is one of the world’s most advanced instruments dedicated to finding planets around other stars.
  • It is sensitive to infrared light which makes it capable of detecting the heat signatures of young planet.
  • It has ability to correct the image distortion (twinkle) introduced by the Earth’s atmosphere. This technique is called direct imaging.

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Categories: Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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