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Exoplanet with Three Suns Discovered Using KELT

Apr 05, 2016 09:40 AM EDT
Artist's animation of a triple star system
This illustration shows the view from a hypothetical moon in orbit around the first known planet to reside in a tight-knit triple-star system.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech )

An exoplanet with three suns was recently discovered by a group of scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT).

KELT is a set of two small telescopes located in South Africa and Arizona.

According to the study published in the Astronomical Journal, the newly discovered planet, named KELT-4Ab, is an inflated, transiting hot Jupiter. This exoplanet orbits the brightest star of the hierarchal triple stellar system.

Christian Science Monitor reported that the host star of KELT-4Ab, dubbed KELT-A, is the largest host star in the three-star exoplanetary system.

The two other suns are smaller twin stars named KELT-4B and KELT-4C, or collectively known as KELT-4BC.

KELT-4Ab completes its orbit around KELT-4A within three days, while KELT-4BC orbits around KELT-4Ab once every 4,000 years.

On the other hand, KELT-4BC orbit each other every 30 years.

KELT-4Ab is very close to its host star making it a "hot Jupiter," which is very uncommon for a giant gas planet.

"Hot Jupiters aren't supposed to exist. None of them," said Jason Eastman, a research associate at the center and the study's lead author, in

"Gaseous planets the size of Jupiter are supposed to form much farther out [from their parent star] and stay there, like our own Jupiter did," he added.

There is no solid surface in KELT-4Ab.

KELT-4A would appear 40 times as large as our sun appears from the Earth when you are looking at it from its atmosphere. The KELT-BC would be almost as bright as a full moon.

According to Microcap Magazine, the KELT-4 system was already discovered in the past, but it was only until recently that researchers realized that it has a triple-star nature.

As of date, KELT-4Ab is the only the fourth planet discovered to have a stable orbit within a multi-star system.

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