Scientists have discovered a "hot Jupiter" in a very unusual situation.
It’s an iconic scene in the first Star Wars movie: young Luke Skywalker on his home planet of Tatooine gazes up into the evening sky at his planet’s two setting suns, leading to many debates over whether such a situation was even possible. As it turns out, scientists have found a planet that has three suns, as we reported recently — and the conditions on it are incredible to even imagine.
This isn’t a rocky, habitable planet like Tatooine — it’s a gas giant, like Jupiter, and its closeness to its sun makes it scorchingly hot, according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. This is the fourth time scientists have found a planet in a multi-star system.
The triple-star planet is called KELT 4AB, and it circles closely to the main star, KELT 4A. Meanwhile, two binary stars are also circling this star at an orbit eight times farther out than Pluto is from our sun, taking 4,000 years to circle the star.
The gas giant, on the other hand, orbits the star once every three days (Earth takes 365 days). KELT 4AB is a big planet — about 50 percent larger than Jupiter. At such a close distance, its atmosphere would have become inflated to an extreme degree.
Scientists used the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) system to spot these “hot Jupiters.”
“From Earth, it appears as though the star gets slightly dimmer for the several hours it takes the planet to cross the star,” states a description from Ohio State University on how hot Jupiters are spotted. “For a hot Jupiter, the planet will block about 1% of the light from the star. The goal of a photometric transit survey like KELT-North is to identify these planets by looking for this tell-tale 1% dimming. Since there is only a 1 out of 10 chance that a hot Jupiter will transit it star, and since not every star is orbited by a hot Jupiter, KELT-North needs to look at tens of thousands of stars over the course of several years to be able to find transiting planets.”