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14.029 Tripel stars system.


Norbert Lossau
This planet has three suns for itself, 08.07 2016
Die Welt, Triple stars systems


Far star systems

This planet has three suns for itself

We are used to there being only one sun, which rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Astronomers have discovered a planet which has three suns. There are indeed three sunrises.

The triple star system is in a distance of about 320 light years from earth and is only about 16 million years old. Thus is HD131399Ab also one of the youngest planets discovered till now.

On the sky of Tatoine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker, two suns shine. This fiction in the "Star Wars" saga is not even so exotic as it may appear to some earth citizens used to a sun and a moon. A planet with even three suns astronomers have now discovered with the Very Large Telescope of the European South Observatory (Eso) in the constellation Centaurus. In the special periodical "Science" they report that an observer on this planet according to season either would see sunlight constantly or three sunrises and sunsets per day.

It is the first time that researchers succeeded in depicting a planet within a triple stars system directly. In the process it surprises at first that a planet with three suns can have a stable orbit at all. Up to now it was taken as a starting point that changing gravitational forces of three stars would quickly push such a planet out of its course and push it out into the expanse of space. That it still works must be the cause of the geometry and the mass distribution in this star system.

The expo planet with the name HD131399Ab orbits the brightest star of the trio in a distance of 80 astronomical units (AU). Researchers have established the distance of the earth from the sun as one astronomical unit. The star HD131399A is according to the estimation of the researchers about 80 per cent more mass rich than our sun. It is orbited by both of the further stars HD131399B and HD131399C in a distance of 300 AU. They are therefore clearly further remote from the centre celestial body than the planet. Both B and C stars are again only ten AU remote from each other and in addition rotate around each other comparable with a rotating dumbbell, which orbits the central A star.

The expo planet is obviously close enough to the mass richest A star so that its gravitational force is sufficient to keep the satellite on a stable course. The scientists have carried out simulation calculations on the computer for that. "These have shown that the orbit can be stable. However if one changes just a minor detail it can become instable very rapidly", explained Daniel Apai of the University of Arizona, one of the co-authors of the specialist article.

The triple stars system is in a distance of about 320 light years from earth and is only about 16 million years old. Therefore HD131399Ab is moreover one of the youngest discovered planets up to now. The researchers estimate that its mass is four times as much as that of Jupiter, of the largest planet in our solar system.

And could there be life on this planet, perhaps even intelligent beings, who can enjoy the interplay of "midnight sun" and multiple sunrises? The answer is no, because with a surface temperature of about 580 degree Celsius the existence of life on HD131399Ab is inconceivable according to earthly standards.

It therefore remains with the mental imagination when Kevin Wagner, the first author of the contribution, formulates: "For about half of the orbit of the planet, which lasts 550 earth years, three stars are visible in the sky; the two with weaker light are always closer together and change their apparent spatial separation during the year." Wagner is regarded as the discoverer of the exo-planet HD131399Ab. He could locate it with the sphere instrument of the Very Large Telescope. This telescope works in the infrared area.

"But it shows that the variety out there is still greater than one has thought possible up to now."

In fact several triple stars systems are already known to science. Already with our next neighbour in space, Alpha Centauri, it is about a trio: Alpha Centauri A and B as well as Proxima Centauri, the red dwarf being somewhat further away from this twin couple. The three Centauris are just a good four light years away from earth.

In April 2016 scientists of the Harvard Smithonian Center for Astrophysics reported about the discovery of a planet in the star system KELT, which one had thought before to be a double stars system. The KELT system is about 700 light years away from earth and consists of the three stars KELT A, KELT B and KELT C. The B and C stars one thought before to be one celestial body. Now one knows that they are two, which once in 30 years revolve around each other.

The planet KELT 4Ab is quite close to the central heavenly body and orbits it once in three days. This closeness has two obvious consequences. Firstly the stability of the planet course is here not in danger. The stars KELT B and C are far enough away and cannot seriously disturb the course of the planet around KELT A. This is a decisive difference to the now discovered planet HD131399Ab, which orbits its central star in a long course and is probably only just about now still on a stabile course.


See This planet has three suns for itself.


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