A new planet with 3 stars clustered together in a four-star system was found 136 light years away from Earth, called 30 Ari as it is in the constellation Aries. The planet was known before, but was thought to have only 3 stars, not 4 stars.
This is the second such a four-starred system has been found after the first four-star planet, KIC 4862625, was discovered in 2013 by citizen scientists using NASA’s Kepler data.
The discoveries were made from telescopes at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego. The Robo-AO adaptive optics system was developed by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and the PALM-3000 adaptive optics system, developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and Caltech.
The discovery makes it clear that quadruple star systems are not rare as previously thought.
“About 4% of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving,” said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The 30 Ari is a gaseous planet, with 10 times the mass of Jupiter, and it orbits its main star every 335 days. The main star has one close partner star, which the planet does not orbit and they are locked in a long-distance orbit with another pair of stars about 1,670 astronomical units away.
The primary star, 30 Ari B, has a companion — the small “red dwarf” star shown at upper left as shown in the photo. This pair of stars is itself locked in a long-distance orbit with another pair of stars (upper right), known as 30 Ari A.
Researchers at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., recently discovered the red star at upper left, bringing the total number of known stars in the system from three to four. Astronomers, however, rule out the possibility of life on these planets.
“Star systems come in myriad forms. There can be single stars, binary stars, triple stars, even quintuple star systems,” said Lewis Roberts of JPL, lead author of the new findings in the journal Astronomical Journal. “It’s amazing the way nature puts these things together.”