Scientists Discover Rare Planet in a Four-Star System


Two civilian scientists, Kian Jek of San Francisco and Robert Gagliano of Arizona, have discovered an incredibly rare, and possibly unique, planet which orbits around two stars, and has a second pair of stars orbiting around it.

So far a few thousand planets have been discovered beyond our solar system. Out of these thousands, seven have been found to orbit binary stars, but none of these have been found to have another pair circling them.

The planet, since confirmed by scientists at Yale and Oxford, is thought to be a gas giant about six times the size of Earth, only slightly bigger than Neptune, located about 5,000 light years away. Jek and Gagliano discovered the planet while volunteering for the website PlanetHunters, a project that has volunteers sort through data taken by NASA’s Kepler mission.

The discovery is confusing scientists however. Dr. Chris Lintott of Oxford University said, “It’s fascinating to try and imagine what it would be like to visit a planet with four suns in its sky, but this new world is confusing astronomers. It’s not at all clear how it formed in such a busy environment.”

Yale’s Meg Schwamb added to Lintott’s train of thought by saying, “the discovery of these systems is forcing us to go back to the drawing board to understand how such planets can assemble and evolve in these dynamically challenging environments.”

PH1, the name given to the planet after the PlanetHunter project, is the first confirmed discovery made by the project.

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