It’s like a Tatooine supreme.
The GW Orionis star system, which is relatively only 1,300 light-years away, may not be much different from our solar system. GW Ori, as astronomers call it, is a triple-star system partially covered by dusty rings of space detritus where planets may be in the process of forming.
But new analysis of the protoplanetary cloud suggests that the process may already yield some very large cosmic fruits.
Researchers led by Jeremy Smallwood, most recently Ph.D. A graduate in astronomy from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, noticed a significant and confusing gap in the dusty disk, which is not only broken but also deformed.
“We suggest that the presence of a giant planet (or planets) in the disk separates the inner and outer disks,” Smallwood and his colleagues wrote in a paper published last month in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “Disk rupture in GW Ori is likely caused by undetermined planets – the first planet in a circumpolar orbit.”
The planets hidden within the mud belts are likely to be gas giants like Jupiter, which formed earlier in a system’s history than the rocky planets like Earth.
Astronomers have previously discovered planets in a triple-star system, such as LTT 1445Ab with three suns in its sky.. If there are confirmed planets around GW Ori, they will be the first to appear around a trio of stars.
It also means that there may be a lot in the gravitationally bound celestial dustbins that revolve around distant stars.
“This is really exciting because it really solidifies the theory of planet formation,” Smallwood said in a statement. “This could mean that planet formation is much more active than we thought, which is great.”
And we used to think the double sunsets over the Skywalker Homestead on Tatooine were mind-blowing. Truth is always stranger than fiction.