A Puzzling New Planet With Four Suns

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Oct. 16 2012 1:43 PM

A Puzzling New Planet With Four Suns

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PH1, the newly discovered planet

Courtesy of Haven Giguere/Yale.

Amateur astronomers have found a new planet that has four suns, the first quadruple star system ever discovered.  

The distant Neptune-like world orbits one pair of stars that in turn have a second stellar pair revolving around them, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. As a University of Oxford researcher told the BBC, "All four stars pulling on it creates a very complicated environment. Yet there it sits in an apparently stable orbit. That's really confusing, which is one of the things which makes this discovery so fun."

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The planet and stars were discovered by two volunteers using planethunters.org, a website that relies on human pattern recognition to identify planetary transits in data made available from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. Named PH1, after the planethunters website, the planet's existence was confirmed by scientists using Hawaii's Keck Observatory.

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