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A faraway exoplanet HD 131399Ab, where there are three sunrises and sunsets every day.

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The discovery of HD 131399Ab has astounded astronomers. Not only is this the widest orbit within a multi-star system yet located, but it means other planets with similarly wide orbits could exist in similar star systems.


The discovered July 2016 in, planet orbits a triple-star system, and for much of its year the stars can be seen close together in the sky. This means that each day offers a unique triple sunset and sunrise. As the planet moves along its orbit, however, the stars grow further apart – until they reach a point where one sets as another rises. This creates a period of near-constant daytime on the planet, lasting for about one-quarter of its orbit, or roughly 140 Earth-years.


The idea of two suns in the sky is familiar to many thanks to the Star Wars franchise; Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, was a strange world with two suns in the sky. However, HD 131399Ab takes this concept to the next level. Imagine being able to witness two sunsets and one sunrise every single day! The beautiful colors in the sky would be breathtaking, and some even speculate that they could even be used to create unique works of art.


The discovery of this unique planet also opens up possibilities for other star systems. If an orbit this wide can be stable in a triple star system, then perhaps other planets with similarly wide orbits could exist in similar multi-star systems. This could greatly expand our understanding of planetary systems and their formation processes.


In an age when science fiction seems to be becoming reality more and more each day, it’s reassuring to know that even our wildest imaginings might have some basis in truth. HD 131399Ab is proof that science fiction can become reality – and that our universe is even stranger than we thought it was.



Exoplanet HD 131399Ab: the Exoplanet Discovered Through Direct Imaging.

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The universe is vast and full of mysteries, and this is especially true of exoplanets. As of this year, over 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered, and many of these were found by indirect techniques such as the transit method. However, in recent years, direct imaging — the capturing of a planet’s light — is being used more and more to discover and study exoplanets. One such discovery made through direct imaging is the exoplanet HD 131399Ab, located in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). 


Exoplanet HD 131399Ab is located about 320 light-years from Earth and is one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date. It has an estimated mass of four Jupiter masses and a temperature of around 580° Celsius, making it one of the coldest and least massive directly-imaged exoplanets. This exoplanet was discovered by Kevin Wagner, a PhD student at the University of Arizona, who identified it among hundreds of candidate planets. He then led follow-up observations to verify its nature. 


The fact that HD 131399Ab was discovered through direct imaging makes it particularly interesting. This is because direct imaging allows us to measure the properties of young exoplanets more accurately than indirect techniques. Additionally, direct imaging also allows us to observe features in a planet’s atmosphere that are not possible to see with indirect methods. For example, around half of the planet’s orbit (which lasts 550 Earth-years) involves three stars that are visible in the sky; while the fainter two stars remain close together, their apparent separation from the brightest star changes throughout the year. Such features can only be observed through direct imaging. 


Exoplanet HD 131399Ab was also the first exoplanet discovered with the instrument SPHERE on the VLT (Very Large Telescope). SPHERE is sensitive to infrared light, making it possible to detect the heat signatures of young planets. Its sophisticated features also correct for atmospheric disturbances and block out the blinding light of host stars.


SPHERE observations of the exoplanet HD 131399Ab.

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The discovery of the exoplanet HD 131399Ab by the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument has been the a study of exoplanets. This is the first exoplanet to be directly-imaged by SPHERE and is one of the few directly-imaged planets ever discovered.


HD 131399Ab is estimated to be four times the mass of Jupiter and has an estimated temperature of 580 degrees Celsius, making it one of the coldest and least massive exoplanets to have been directly imaged. The SPHERE observations have also shown that the planet appears far brighter in the image than it would in reality, due to the contrast between it and its host star.


The host star HD 131399A is thought to be 80 percent more massive than our Sun, and is orbited by two less massive stars, B and C, at a distance of approximately 300 AU, roughly three times the average distance between our Sun and Pluto. These two stars form what is known as a binary star system, in which two stars orbit each other at a distance roughly equivalent to that between our Sun and Saturn.


Planet HD 131399Ab is thought to orbit star A at a distance of 80 AU – twice as far as Pluto from our Sun – and at one third of the separation between star A and the B/C star pair. While further observations will be needed to determine the precise trajectory of the planet, simulations suggest that this particular orbit may be stable in the long term.


The discovery of HD 131399Ab is an exciting milestone in the study of exoplanets, and provides valuable insight into how different solar systems can form. The fact that it is one of the first exoplanets to be directly imaged by SPHERE makes it all the more remarkable, and gives us a glimpse into what we can expect from future observations.



Exploring the World of Multi-Star Systems.

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Multi-star systems, or star systems with more than one star, are a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon. These systems are just as common as single-star systems, yet they remain somewhat unexplored. Recently, astronomers have made an exciting discovery: a planet in the orbit of the HD 131399 system that is stable despite its unusual and far-reaching orbit.


The planet circles the brightest star in the system, HD 131399A, and its orbit is depicted by the red line in the graphic. The blue lines represent the orbits of the other stars in the system. The fact that this planet can remain stable in such a wide orbit has challenged our assumptions about these types of planetary systems.


The stability of this planet’s orbit provides compelling evidence that there is more variety in planetary systems than we previously thought. This discovery also provides an intriguing example of how planetary formation works in these extreme scenarios. It suggests that such planets can form in regions where it is normally expected to be impossible, and this could lead to more discoveries of planets in unexpected places.


Astronomers have theorized that if the planet was further away from the most massive star in the system, it would be kicked out of the system. Computer simulations have shown that this type of orbit is stable, but it could become unstable if alterations were made to the arrangement. The research team, led by Dr. Daniel Apai and Dr. Kevin Wagner, believe their findings are evidence that there are more kinds of planets than we have previously theorized. 


The fact that this planet is able to successfully remain in its orbit despite its wide range raises questions about our understanding of planetary systems. What else might be out there that we don’t yet know? Are there other planets with similarly unusual orbits? Will this discovery pave the way for more exploration of multi-star systems? 


Only time will tell what other surprising discoveries await us in our exploration of multi-star systems, but one thing is for sure: The HD 131399 system has provided us with a fascinating glimpse into a and wonderful world that may hold even more secrets waiting to be uncovered.

A faraway exoplanet HD 131399Ab, where there are three sunrises and sunsets every day.

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