Astronomers Spot Exoplanet Lit by Three Suns
Photo: ESO/L. CalcadaTech01:46 28.07.2019Get short URL1131
Scientists have found a planet, dubbed LTT 1445Ab, in data gathered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The newly discovered world has three suns on its horizon, all red dwarfs, in a system 22.5 light-years away from Earth.
Scientists believe the planet is rocky, about a third larger and at most around 8 times as massive as Earth. It’s very hot on the surface, reaching 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius), circling one star of the triplet every 5 days.
“If you’re standing on the surface of that planet, there are three suns in the sky, but two of them are pretty far away and small-looking,” co-author Jennifer Winters, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told New Scientist. “They’re like two red, ominous eyes in the sky.”
One distinctive feature of the newly found planet is that scientists might be able to deduce the gases in its atmosphere. Because the stars in question are red dwarfs that are located reasonably close to Earth, and because the system is arranged so that the planet passes between the stars and Earth, scientists may actually be able to get a glimpse of any gases surrounding the planet using telescopes based on Earth.
This is important because transiting planets offer scientists the opportunity to study atmospheres. This could also give us a better sense of the chances of finding life elsewhere in the universe because red dwarf stars are thought to be the most common type of stars.