Astronomers discover HD 131399Ab, planet with three suns

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A team of international astronomers for the first time have spotted a gaseous planet with three suns and a mass four times that of Jupiter and located 320 light years away in the constellation of Centaurus the planet, known as HD 131399Ab.

Planet HD 131399Ab was spotted by team of astronomers led by University of Arizona by using Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory located in the Atacama Desert of Chile.

It should be noted that binary solar systems (having two stars or suns) are relatively common in the universe but solar systems having three or more stars are very rare.

Facts about HD 131399Ab :

HD 131399 Ab is located at a distance of 320 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. It is belived to be 16 million years old and is one of the youngest planets to be discovered outside our solar system.

One orbit of HD 131399 Ab takes 550 years. During about 1/4 of the orbit i.e, 100–140 years, all three suns are visible during a single day. During this period of time any spot on the planet is in perpetual sunlight—as the single sun sets, the binary pair rises.

Composition : A gas giant, it is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, with an upper atmosphere that contains a mix of water and methane. Below that, the researchers predict, are clouds of tiny silicate grains, with the deeper regions of the atmosphere boasting clouds of liquid iron.

Although the planet has a mass four times that of Jupiter, the planet has temperature of about 850K (577 degrees celsius) which is far cooler than other exoplanets detected using the same technique.

Spectro-Polarimetric High-Contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE)

Spectro-Polarimetric High-Contrast Exoplanet Research Instrument based in Chile allows astronomers to take a direct image of exoplanets, provided they orbit far enough away from their star and are hot enough to allow detection by thermal imaging.

This instrument  offers advantages over instruments such Nasa’s Kepler Space Observatory as it has ability to correct the image distortion (twinkle) introduced by the Earth’s atmosphere. This technique is called direct imaging.

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