A rare planet circuntriple on the head of Orion

A new study confirms that the Triple GW ORI stellar system can contain a planet that orbits around its three soles. It would be one of the strangest planets o

A rare planet circuntriple on the head of Orion

A new study confirms that the Triple GW ORI stellar system can contain a planet that orbits around its three soles. It would be one of the strangest planets of those known in the universe.

We travel today to Orion. Not only is it one of the brightest and famous constellations, also in this area of heaven are some of the stellar training regions of the closest to Earth. An authentic laboratory in which astronomers study the testing processes of stars and planets with the highest level of detail as possible.

Well, exactly about the head of Orion, the warrior, just over 1300 light years away, is a fascinating stellar system called GW ORIONIS. The system is composed of a couple of stars that orbit very close to each other and a third star located further, describing a much wider orbit around the binary.

But this peculiar configuration is not the most surprising of GW ORI. Last year, when astronomers pointed out some of the world's greatest telescopes to this system, they found that it was an authentic box of surprises. With the giant soul radiotelescope, three nested gas and dust rings were identified between them surrounding the stellar system. The image of these rings reminds a target to play darts. These rings are the ones that accompany and give the formation of a new planetary system.

To obtain a more accurate image of the central region of the rings, they used the VLT optical telescope, as a soul. In the Atacama desert (Chile) - equipped with a sophisticated detection instrument called Sphere. It was discovered so the inner ring is completely misaligned and inclined with respect to the outer rings, in a configuration that is illustrated in the image that leads this article. It was already known that the orbits of the stars of the triple system are not aligned either, as GW Ori had been observed periodically with other VLT instruments for more than a decade, but these less sophisticated instruments that Sphere did not allow to see the dusty material of the Rings

The team of astronomers, coordinated by Stefan Kraus, of the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) then concluded that the misalignment between the orbits of the Triple Star System had been able to tear the inner ring discouraging it with respect to the outer rings.

However, another team captained by Jiaqing Bi, of the University of Victoria (Canada) concluded, independent but almost simultaneously, that the tearing of the inner album must have been caused by the presence of a planet similar to our Jupiter, which would be orbited Triple stellar system.

Compared to what is observed in the universe, science fiction always falls short. If the image of Tattoine, the fictional planet of Star Wars, it was already fascinated with its two soles, the idea of Jiaqing Bi of a planet with three stars in his sky hit many researchers who launched them to explore and try to confirm, or Reject, the proposed stimulant.

Now, a team led by Jeremy Smallwood, from the University of Nevada (USA), in which Jiaqing Bi also collaborates, has just published a study showing the results of hydrodynamic simulations, carried out with powerful Computers, from the tear of the central ring of GW Ori. The authors explore the two possibilities that were evoked last year: both the effect of the stars as the possible presence of a planet.

The new study concludes, unequivocally, that the effects of the stellar system (the pair of forces exerted) on the internal disk are not sufficient to explain its tear, in a nutshell, the ring does not show the level of turbulence that, according to the simulations , I would expect in this case.

Therefore, the presence of a massive planet (or several planets) located between the more internal album and the outers should be the cause of the strange shape of the central ring, its properties and its dynamic behavior. The planet would have been formed very recently, so that it is still 'cleaning' of gas and dust the annular hollow that separates the central ring from the next one.

This planet in GW ORI would be one of the most peculiar of all acquaintances. In his heavens, his three soles would be observable, although two of them are located as close to each other that it is not sure that they were distinguishable to the naked eye. If the existence of this planet (or planets) is confirmed, we will have more evidence that planetary systems can be very different from our solar system.

At the beginning of the search for extrasolar planets we should be kept out of our solar system, with its eight well-ordered planets: the more internal rocky and gaseous giants in the outermost region. But every day that passes see that we must keep the mind well open to all the possibilities and that the diversity of the worlds is practically infinite.

The article by Smallwoord and collaborators, entitled GW Ori: Circumtriple Rings and Planets has been published in British magazine Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The manuscript can be consulted in this link.

Rafael Bachiller is Director of the National Astronomical Observatory (National Geographic Institute) and academic of the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain.

Updated Date: 09 October 2021, 13:43

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