“‘Star Wars’ failed a trick,” said Rebecca Nealon of the University of Warwick in England, a co-author of the paper.
Scientists are looking for a planet orbiting three stars and have found potential evidence in another system. GG Tau A, located about 450 light years from Earth. But the researchers say the gap in GW Ori’s dust and gas ring makes it a more compelling example.
“It could be the first evidence of a circumtriple planet creating a vacuum in real time,” said Jeremy Smallwood of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, lead author of the new paper.
William Welsh, an astronomer at San Diego State University, said the researchers “are a good case. If this turns out to be a planet, it would be fascinating. “
Alison Young of the University of Leicester in England, who argued that GW Ori’s stars caused the gap in the system’s disk rather than a planet, notes that observations from the ALMA telescope and the Very Large Telescope in Chile in the coming months they could end the debate. .
“We will be able to look for direct evidence of a planet on the disk,” Dr. Young said.
If the planet hypothesis is confirmed, the system would reinforce the idea that planet formation is common. It is already known that several worlds, known as circumbinary planets, orbit two stars at the same time. But the circumscribed planets have been harder to find, despite estimates that at least one tenth of all stars are grouped into systems of three or more. However, their possible existence suggests that planets arise in all kinds of places, even here in this strange system.
“Three stars are not enough to kill planet formation,” Dr. Nealon said.
This suggests that exoplanets are likely to appear in increasingly unusual places. “What we’ve learned is that whenever planets can form, they do,” said Sean Raymond, an astronomer at the University of Bordeaux in France who was not involved in the study.