An international team of amateur and professional astronomers has discovered a planet whose skies are lit up by four suns — the first known case of such a phenomenon.
The planet, about 5,000 light years from Earth, has been dubbed PH1 in honor of Planet Hunters, a program led by Yale University in the US, which enlists volunteers to look for signs of new planets.
PH1 is orbiting two suns, and in turn is orbited by a second distant pair of stars. Only six planets are known to orbit two stars, researchers say, and none of those are orbited by other distant stars.
“Circumbinary planets are the extremes of planet formation,” said Yale’s Meg Schwamb, lead author of a paper presented on Monday at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nevada. “The discovery of these systems is forcing us to go back to the drawing board to understand how such planets can assemble and evolve in these dynamically challenging environments.”
US citizen scientists and Planet Hunters participants Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano were the first to identify PH1. Their observations were then confirmed by a team of US and British researchers working in Hawaii.
PH1 is a gas giant with a radius about 6.2 times that of Earth, making it slightly larger than Neptune. It orbits a pair of eclipsing stars that are 1.5 and 0.41 times the mass of the sun roughly every 138 days.
The two other stars are orbiting the planetary system at a distance that is roughly 1,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.
The planethunters.org Web site was created in 2010 to encourage amateur astronomers to identify planets outside our solar system, using data from the US space agency NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
Kepler, launched in March 2009, is NASA’s first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting stars similar to our sun.
The discovery of PH1 was made available online on Monday at the site arxiv.org and has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication.
MORE TO COME
“It still continues to astonish me how we can detect, let alone glean so much information, about another planet thousands of light-years away just by studying the light from its parent star,” Jek said.
Last week scientists reported the discovery of a “diamond planet” twice the size of Earth and orbiting a sun-like star.
Up to one-third of the planet’s mass and much of its surface is believed to consist of diamonds, implying that distant rocky planets can no longer be assumed to have the same features as Earth.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable