You may think Luke Skywalker's fictitious home planet of Tatooine with two suns was strange. But now astronomers have discovered a planet with three suns 340 light-years from Earth that they say is unlike any other known world. There, you would either experience constant daylight or enjoy triple sunrises and sunsets each day, depending on the seasons, which last longer than human lifetimes. Astronomers have found a distant planet that orbits around three suns - taking 550 years. The strange world snappily named HD 131399Ab is some 340 light years from Earth.
This is the first time astronomers have spotted an exoplanet orbiting within a three-star system. An artist's conception shows a view of the triple-star system HD 131399 from close to the giant planet orbiting in the system. The planet is known as HD 131399Ab and appears at the lower-left of the image. Don't forget the sunscreen on planet HD 131399Ab: It has three suns. The far-off planet, located about 320 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus, is unlike any other known world, scientists say.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Imagine a planet with triple sunrises and sunsets every day for part of the year, and nonstop daylight at other times. During part of the planet's orbit, all three stars are visible on the same day, offering triple sunrises and sunsets and allowing for day and night. For about one-fourth of its year -- around 100 to 140 Earth years -- there's continuous daylight. "With three suns, the planet will see different weird combinations of sunrises and sunsets," said co-author Daniel Apai, a University of Arizona astronomer.
A newly discovered alien world has three masters. The planet -- which is about four times more massive than Jupiter and located about 340 light-years from Earth -- orbits the brightest star in a three-star system. The two other stars in the system also orbit the brightest star, circling one another like a dumbbell and exerting their gravitational influence over the planet, named HD 131399Ab. "For about half of the planet's orbit, which lasts 550 Earth-years, three stars are visible in the sky," Kevin Wagner, the lead author of a study in the journal Science detailing the new finding, said in a statement. For much of the planet's year the stars appear close together, giving it a familiar night-side and day-side with a unique triple-sunset and sunrise each day.
This exoplanet is part of a triple star system, sits further away from its parent star than Pluto, and is four times larger than Jupiter. Imagine a planet, like Jupiter, but four times heavier. And it's got a huge orbit, maybe twice as wide as Pluto's. Oh, and it has three suns. That planet is real, and it's only 320 light years away.