Our solar system, with only one star in the sky, may seem a bit strange. Most The stars in the Milky Way actually have at least one gravitationally bound star, which means that a world with two stars like Tatooine is not uncommon.
However, stellar systems are limited to a maximum of two stars. We found the systems of Up to seven stars Tied together in an intricate orbital dance. Now, scientists have discovered what they believe to be the first in astronomy: an exoplanet orbiting a system of three stars, also known as a stellar triad.
To be clear, there were exoplanets Previously found in trinity systems – Orbiting a star in the system. If this new discovery is validated, the exoplanet will be in orbit around all three stars, something not previously seen.
Stars in the Milky Way do not usually form solitary. Their birthplaces are large molecular clouds that break up dense clusters of gas under gravity.
As these clumps rotate, objects in the cloud form a disk and attach to the star it forms. If these disk fragments, another star or multiple stars, begin to form in the same place – a small star family of siblings. Once the formation of the star is complete, the remaining planets on the disk can form.
About 40 to 50 percent of stars are estimated to have a binary partner, while another 20 percent are in systems with three or more stars.
These systems can be gravitationally complex, making it difficult to orbit small objects – however, about 2.5 percent of exoplanets are considered to be multiple systems consisting of three stars or more.
To date, approximately 32 exoplanets have been found in trainee systems. Then came a system called GW Orionis.
Located about 1,300 light-years away, the GW Orionis caught the attention of astronomers because it is surrounded by a large, incorrectly designed protoplanetary disk that orbits all three stars.
With the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have confirmed something else about the system: there is a significant gap in the protoplanetary disk.
According to our models of planetary formation, gaps in protoplanetary disks are more likely to occur as planets form. As they orbit the star, these planets wipe out the dust and gas in their orbits, cleaning it up and leaving a gap.
In GW Orion, things may not be so clear. Since the three stars create a complex gravitational field, it is possible that any strange features on the disk were created by the stars themselves.
Previous analysis has suggested that this is probably not the case; The gravitational interaction between the stars alone is not enough, just a gap in the disk is enough to form an exoplanet.
Now, a new analysis agrees with this interpretation. Led by Jeremy Smallwood, an astronomer at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, a team of researchers recreated a prototype of the GW Orionis system by combining N-body and three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations.
Like previous researchers, they found that the torque generated by stars was not enough to split a protoplanetary disk.
Instead, the culprit could be a gas giant like Jupiter, in the process of formation or multiple gas giants. We have not seen the Exoplanet itself, which means that there is still room for doubt, but the agreement between the two different research efforts seems to be in favor of the Baby Exoplanet interpretation.
The planetary formation process can survive more intense conditions than we expected, i.e. a complex atmosphere like space around triple stars.
“It’s really exciting because it really strengthens the planet formation theory.” Smallwood said. “It could mean that planet formation is more active than we thought, which is a lot of fun.”
The team hopes that astronomers will be able to see the exoplanet or exoplanets directly in the upcoming observations of the GW Orionis system.
Published by Research Monthly Announcements of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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