Astronomers Discover Massive Planet that was Reared by Four Parent Stars

First Posted: Mar 05, 2015 07:38 AM EST

Most planets have just one or two stars to contend with. Now, though, astronomers have discovered a planet that had four parent stars. Scientists have recently uncovered two exoplanets, one which has three parent stars and another which has four.

The astronomers spotted the new exoplanets with the help of the Robo-AO adaptive optics system. It's actually only the second time that a planet has been identified in a quadruple star system, though the recent discovery suggests that these planets may be less rare than previously though.

The star system itself is made up of two pairs of twin stars slowly circling each other at great distances. Called 30 Ari, the star system is located 136 light-years away from the constellation Aries. The planet that makes its home within this system is gaseous and enormous; it has 10 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits the primary star every 335 days.

"About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said Andrei Tokovinin, co-author of the new study, in a news release.

If it were possible to see the skies from this gaseous planet, the four parent stars would look like one small sun and two very bright stars that would be visible in daylight. If one of these stars were viewed with a large enough telescope, you'd see it was a binary system of two stars orbiting each other.

"Star systems come in myriad forms. There can be single stars, binary stars, triple stars, even quintuple star systems," said Lewis Roberts, lead author of the new study. "It's amazing the way nature puts these things together."

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