NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the all-sky survey mission that aims to discover thousands of exoplanets from nearby star systems, is now the culprit for a discovery that defies all expectations. While a mysterious source of starlight was brightening and dimming about 1,900 light-years away, astronomers were curious to find out more.
As DailyGalaxy.com writes, astronomers managed to discover TIC 168789840, the system of three pairs of binary stars that defies all odds. More precisely, there are three different stellar couplets that revolve around three different centers of mass. Even so, the trio is still gravitationally connected and circling as a single star system.
A mind-blowing star system
Brian Powell, the first author of the study and a data scientist at the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center from NASA, declared:
Just the fact that it exists blows my mind,
I’d love to just be in a spaceship, park next to this thing and see it in person.
The majority of the stars discovered by TESS are triple and quadruple star systems. But as Robin George Andrews reports for the New York Times, the star system with three suns “may top all those discoveries for its science fiction-like grandeur.”
A statement from NASA writes:
The large outer orbit of the third star in a hierarchical triple, necessary for stability, substantially reduces the probability that the eclipse or occultation of the third star will be visually noticed in a TESS lightcurve. Beyond quadruple stars, the probability of systems with more stars being identified via photometry alone is remote, as the formation of sextuple systems is likely quite rare. This low probability is compounded by the requirement that each binary must be oriented in such a manner that they are all eclipsing.
The fact that the astonishing star system exists in our own Milky Way galaxy raises hope that even more peculiar and intriguing star systems exist out there in the Cosmos.