Amateur astronomers helped find a distant planet that has two suns in addition to a riveting twist: both of the parent stars are orbited by other stars. No other planet is known to have that many stars in its system, according to Space.com.
It’s a solar system never before seen, a planet with two suns in a four-star solar system.
But PH1 isn’t much like Tatooine from "Star Wars" except for having two suns. It’s a Jupiter-like gaseous planet, much different than Luke Skywalker’s rocky home.
“The alien planet, called PH1, is a gas giant planet slightly bigger than Neptune. Its discovery in the midst of a strange, four-star planetary system is the first confirmed world discovered as part of the Yale University-led Planet Hunters project, in which armchair astronomers work with professional scientists to find evidence of new worlds in the bountiful data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.”
“Planet Hunters is a symbiotic project, pairing the discovery power of the people with follow-up by a team of astronomers,” said Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale and planet expert who helped launch Planet Hunters in 2010, in a statement. “This unique system might have been entirely missed if not for the sharp eyes of the public.”
The planet has already been determined to be too hot to be in the habitable zone, so even though it would be wonderful to see a sunset with four suns, it would be impossible for humans to land on PH1.
"Although PH1 is a gas giant planet, even if there is a possibility of rocky moons orbiting the body, their surfaces would be too hot for liquid water to exist," researcher Meg Schwamb of Yale University and colleagues write in a draft of their research article.
Researchers have estimated that the planet's surface temperature is about 484 degrees Fahrenheit, Space.com wrote.
Planets that have two suns are called circumbinary planets, and out of the six that have been discovered, none of them have other stars orbiting around the parent star like PH1.
"Circumbinary planets are the extremes of planet formation," Schwamb said in a statement. "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."
Cicumbinary planets were mere fiction until their discovery, with Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine being the most famous.