So far only one has been known, but astronomers have reported the discovery of a new system consisting of two stars and two planets orbiting both.
These formations are known as ring systems, and the most famous planet of this type is actually in the realm of science fiction. It’s called Tatooine and was the home of Luke and Anakin Skywalker in the “Star Wars” saga.
The discovery was published today in Nature Astronomy in a study coordinated by the University of Birmingham (UK), which used ancient technology to locate the new object orbiting the two stars.
Circular planets used to be relegated only to science fiction, but thanks to data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission, astronomers now know that multiple star systems are more common than previously thought, says Ohio State University, who was also involved in the study.
This two-star system is called TOI-1338/BEBOP-1 and in 2020 its first planet (TOI-1338b) was located, and the discovery of the second makes it the second known binary star system to host multiple planets.
The new planet, cataloged as BEBOP-1c, is a large gas giant, with an orbital period around the two stars of 215 days and a mass 65 times greater than Earth’s, although its exact size has yet to be determined.
Scientists understand very little about planets that form around multiple star systems.
When a planet orbits two stars, “it can be a little more difficult to find because its two stars are also moving through space,” explains David Martin, co-author of the study from Ohio State University.
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The method by which the exoplanets of these stars can be detected and the way they form is “quite different” and the most used method is the transit method, which makes it possible to detect a planet indirectly by measuring the decrease in brightness from the light when a planet crosses between a star and an observer on Earth.
However, in this study, the researchers only used observations made using the radial velocities method, which relies on measuring the gravitational displacement that planets exert on their host stars over time.
This is the same method used to find the exoplanet of 1995, now known as Dimidium.
This discovery, according to the team, could also help scientists search for life on other planets, as the inner planet already in this binary system would be a prime candidate for atmospheric study by the James Webb Space Telescope.
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