It seems John Williams will have to write a new movement, since we can forget about Tatooine – there’s now a five-star system out there. And it’s exhilarating, to say the least.
The final frontier just got a bit weirder, as scientists have uncovered a solar system made up of not two, not three, not four, but five stars. The theoretical aspect of a five-star system was perfectly feasible, and we’ve previously seen another one found by the Kepler telescope, yet this one seems to be even more unique.
How are the stars disposed?
The system is made up of two binary micro-systems. A binary star is exactly what it sounds like: two stars caught in an orbit around each other. For this particular case, the first is a contact binary, which has the diameter of the sun, is relatively small. The second is a detached binary – two stars separated by about three million kilometers.
The latter smaller system is itself orbiting a lone star which seems to be the biggest of the five brothers. The two groups, the smaller contact binary, and the three star micro-system, both are in a very wide orbit around each other – roughly the distance between Pluto and our sun, about 21 billion kilometers.
The system carries the official name of 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5. It is located in the Ursa Major constellation, about 250 light years away from us. It was discovered while scientists were analyzing data from the SuperWASP project (Wide Angle Search for Planets).
The project gathers images from small and not that expensive cameras placed in the Canary Islands and in South Africa. These instruments periodically capture images of the sky at distances of a few minutes. The researchers then scan these images and map the stars by their brightness. The data resulting help them plot the trajectories of the stars (by matching brightness to time), but this is accomplished only after years of work.
When brightness plots overlap, it creates pairs of dips in the light curve, which over time result in a regular pattern.
Dr. Marcus Lohr, one of the co-authors of the study, a scientist from the Open Universiy thinks that this is an extremely exotic and rare star system. He believes that there is no reason why there couldn’t be planets in orbit around either binary. Inhabitants on these planets would have a very interesting light show, and very rarely would be left in darkness.
Lohr concluded by saying that the makers of Star Wars still have much to learn.
Image source: sfgate.com