‘Against all odds’ – NASA Hunt Planet Tess discovers a unique star system with six ‘Suns’ (Weekend feature)

TESS mission

„The system exists despite the difficulties,“ he said. Brian Powell, A data scientist at the NASA High-Energy Astrophysics Archives Research Center on a starlight source that was mysteriously illuminating and dimming about 1,900 light-years away. The source, called TIC 168789840, is a system of three pairs of binary stars: three different star pairs orbiting three different centers of mass, but with the trio remaining gravitally bound to each other and orbiting the center of the galaxy as a single star system.

„The mere fact that he’s there amazes me,“ said the first author, Powell. „I’d just like to be in a spacecraft, park next to this thing and see it in person.“

Eclipse in the Lightcurves

The amplitude of TESS’s observation encompasses nearly the entire sky, allowing many candidate multi-star systems to be identified by analyzing the eclipses in light curves. The collaboration between NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the MIT Kavli Institute, in conjunction with expert optical surveyors, has found more than 100 candidates for the triple and quadruple star system.

Most systems are quadruple

The vast majority of TESS that discovered candidate three and quadruple star systems are four times, followed by three times since it began searching the galaxy for exoplanets in 2018. But the starlight source that was mysteriously illuminating and dimming some 1900 light-years away, Reports Robin George Andrews to The New York Times, „It may top all of these discoveries due to its science-fiction-like grandeur.“

„Although quadruple systems are much rarer than triple systems,“ according to NASA reports, „the large outer orbit of the third star in a hierarchical trilogy, which is necessary for stability, greatly reduces the possibility of an eclipse or occlusion of the third star visually observed In the light TESS curve. Away from quadrupeds, the probability that systems with more stars are identified by photometry alone is far away, as it is very likely that hexagonal systems are very rarely formed. This low probability is multiplied by the requirement that each be directed Couple in such a way that they are all eclipses. „

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Unique system

Although several other six-star systems have been discovered, according to Andrews’ report on NASA’s TESS discovery, this is the first in which stars inside each of these three pairs pass in front and behind each other, overtaking the other member of the stellar ballet. , At least from the point of view of the TESS Space Telescope.

These are the types of signals that algorithms really struggle with, said lead author. Veselin Kostov, Is a postdoctoral NASA fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center. „The human eye is very good at finding patterns in data, especially non-periodic patterns like those we see in transits from these systems.“

Although exoplanets within the stellar system have yet to be confirmed, only one of the pairs can have any planets. Two binaries of the system rotate very close to each other, forming their own quadrupole subsystems. Any planets out there would likely be ejected or engulfed by one of the four stars. The third duo falls apart, orbiting the other two once every 2,000 years or so, making it an extrasolar sanctuary.

Its origin is a mystery

„The origin of this six-star system will remain a mystery until we find others like it,“ Andrews concludes. „The mere fact that he’s there amazes me,“ said the first author, Powell. „I’d just like to be in a spacecraft, park next to this thing and see it in person.“

In 2019, TESS TOI 1338 discovered its first circular planet, a world orbiting two stars, 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor. The two stars revolve around each other every 15 days. One is about 10% more massive than our sun, the other is cooler and fainter and only a third of the sun’s mass. TOI 1338 b, the only known planet in the system. It is about 6.9 times larger than Earth, or between the sizes of Neptune and Saturn. The planet orbits in roughly the same plane as the stars, so it experiences a regular stellar eclipse.

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Daily Galaxy, Jake Borba, trans Goddard Space Flight CenterAnd the NASA Arxiv.org PDFAnd and The New York Times Science

Image Credit: NASA / MIT / TESS shows the spacecraft mosaic of 13 sectors of the southern sky, which was recorded over the course of a year. One of the things shown in the mosaic is a long, bright rim of the Milky Way.

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