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Planet seen orbiting two-star system hotter than the Sun

·2 min read

New photographs show a planet orbiting around a two-star system, something thought to be impossible until now.

B Centauri – which can be seen with the naked eye – is the hottest and biggest planet-hosting star system found to date.

Some scientists believed planets were not able to orbit stars as hot as B Centauri before the images were caught by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT).

The two-star system is around 325 light years away and has at least six times the mass of the Sun.

Its main star is more than three times as hot as our sun.

Undated handout photo from ESO of the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b.
The most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b (ESO)

The VLT is the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy and is the world’s most advanced optical telescope.

It includes four unit telescopes which work together to allow astronomers to see up to 25 times finer than with individual telescopes.

It has already witnessed new discoveries, including the orbiting of B Centauri, and has provided the first image of an extrasolar planet, tracked individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and has seen the afterglow of the furthest known Gamma-Ray burst.

The planet was seen orbiting B Centauri at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun – and pictures show it at different stages of its orbit around the stars.

Undated handout photo from ESO of the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b.
(ESO)

Markus Janson, an astronomer at Stockholm University in Sweden, said: “Finding a planet around b Centauri was very exciting since it completely changes the picture about massive stars as planet hosts.

“B-type stars are generally considered as quite destructive and dangerous environments, so it was believed that it should be exceedingly difficult to form large planets around them.

“It will be an intriguing task to try to figure out how it might have formed, which is a mystery at the moment.”

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