October 25, 2021

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The planet orbits three stars in the GW Orionis system?

The planet orbits three stars in the GW Orionis system?

| Astronomy / Physics

About 1,300 light-years from Earth, the GW Orionis system is located in the constellation Orion. It consists of young stars surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. They circle around each other closely, and the third circle both. However, what caught the attention of astronomers most is the disk. And not only because of its unusual shape, but also because of the possibility of being in it A planet revolving around three stars.

The atypical disc consists of three concentric circles. Neither of them matches the orbit of any of the stars, and the outer portion of them does not even match both inner disks. It tilts and sways unusually as it orbits the stars.

Scientists from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom looked at GW Orionis to find out why the protoplanetary disk was split into three distinctly separate parts. Observed disk gaps could be caused by the motion of the stars that surround them. However, when scientists modeled what was happening in the considered system, it turned out that the influence of the stars would not have led to such a disintegration of the disk. According to scientists, a possible explanation for the existence of a disk with such an unusual shape and parameters is the presence of one or more massive planets formed in GW Orionis.

Scientists report that although we know of more than 30 triple star systems in which planets are located, there is no planet that simultaneously orbits three stars. This may be the case in GW Orionis. If there is indeed a planet or planets orbiting all three, they should be sought within 100 astronomical units from the center of the system (1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun). The same stars in GW Orionis are very close to each other. The mentioned pair is only 1 AU away, and the third star orbits the 8 AU pair from the center of the system.

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Scientists note that finding planets in a complex system like GW Orionis will not be easy. In either case, further observations of this system are needed.

The search is described in detail in the pages Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

GW Orionis star planet protoplanetary disk