NASA Discovers Star Wars Exoplanet That Orbits Three Red Suns

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NASA Discovers Star Wars Exoplanet That Orbits Three Red Suns
Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

NASA scientists have discovered an overheated Star Wars-type Exoplanet boasting a sky resembling Star Wars’ Tatooine as it orbits three red suns. It is 1.4 times the size of Earth and orbits three stars, which makes it different compared to Luke Sky Walker’s home planet that orbits two stars.

NASA scientists together with a group from Harvard Center for Astrophysics learned about the planet using data from the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey) telescope. The planet is called LTT 1445 A b, making it one of 12 recent discoveries that were entered in the space agency’s Exoplanet Archive.

“While the planet itself remains in what is probably a stable orbit around its star, that star also orbits, at greater distance, two sibling stars that are locked in close orbit around each other,” explained NASA, in a statement.

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NASA believes that the scorching Star Wars exoplanet is a rocky planet, and it takes only five days to complete one orbit around one of the stars. The planet is located 22 light-years away from Earth and is extremely close to its host star, which can explain the tremendously high temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, NASA believes that the planet has a stable orbit around its star, which also at a greater distance orbits two sibling stars which are locked in a close orbit around each other. NASA wrote in the statement that this is not the first time a triple star system with an orbiting planet has been discovered.

“Our nearest stellar neighbor, in fact, is Proxima Centauri, orbiting the more distant pair, Alpha Centauri A and B. Proxima is only 4.25 light-years away from Earth,” NASA wrote, adding that the small rocky planet Proxima b takes around 11 days to orbit its host star.

It’s worth noting that all three stars that reside in the LTT 1445 system are classified as red dwarf stars which are significantly cooler and longer-burning stars compared to the larger yellow dwarfs, one of which is our Sun. Scientists also noted that the overheated Star Wars exoplanet is the second-closest exoplanet that transits its star at such a close distance. That means that “the orbit of LTT 1445 A b is tilted at the correct angle to, from our vantage point, pass across the face of its star.”

The transit method for uncovering exoplanets allows the TESS telescope to detect their planets as they “transit” in front of their host star causing a dimming of the light they radiate. The nearest transiting planetary system scientists have discovered is HD 219134 bc which is located around 21 light-years from Earth. The transit method was also used on TESS’ predecessor Kepler Space Telescope, which was put into retirement because its fuel ran out.

 

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