British scientists have discovered the first ever five stars system “that would put the makers of Star Wars to shame.” All the five stars in this bizarre system are bound by gravity. They are located in the constellation of Ursa Major, just 250 light years away from Earth. Astronomers at the Open University, UK said that the system consists of two sets of eclipsing binary stars and a solo star.
Could there be planets orbiting each of these stars?
Marcus Lohr, the lead author of the study, said that there was no reason the system “couldn’t have planets in orbits around each of the pairs of stars.” Days in this system would have varying light levels as different stars were eclipsed. Marcus Lohr and his colleagues presented this amazing discovery at the National Astronomy Meeting at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales.
The five stars system was initially discovered in the archived data from the SuperWASP project that uses low-cost cameras in South Africa and the Canary Islands to image the whole sky every few minutes. Initially, scientists had found a system of two stars orbiting so close to each other that they shared an outer atmosphere. These two stars took less than six hours to complete one orbital cycle.
Then they noticed more blips. Upon re-analysis, astronomers found another eclipsing binary. This binary’s component stars were well-separated by a distance of about 1.8 million miles. Also, it has a longer orbital cycle of 1.3 days. The two sets of stars are 13 billion miles from each other. These are binary stars that orbit around each other, blocking some or all of the other star’s light in our line of sight from Earth.
All the five stars are smaller than our Sun
Then researchers observed these four stars spectroscopically to study the signatures of different stars in detail. It revealed a fifth star that was about 1.3 billion miles from the detached binary. The fifth star was far enough not to produce any eclipses, but close enough to be gravitationally bound in the five stars system.
Surprisingly, the two binaries orbit in the same plane, suggesting they were originally formed from a single disc of dust and gas. All the five stars are cooler and smaller than our Sun. However, the collective system is so bright that small telescopes and amateur astronomers could see the eclipses for themselves.