You don’t find triple star systems every day in the Universe, that’s for sure. But when astronomers do, there’s no use being surprised if they get surprised for themselves. Unfortunately or not, nature doesn’t seem to care one bit about our expectations.
If you have never heard about HD 98800 or TIC 470710327 before, there’s no use getting upset. Both monikers represent the name of a newfound triple star system that has a peculiar characteristic. According to livescience.com, the system is unusually massive, and it’s also pretty crowded there. This suggests that a fourth planet might have once existed in that area, and the theory for its absence is pretty mind-blowing: its stellar companions might have gobbled it up.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) of NASA was responsible for gathering the necessary data in order for scientists to determine the existence of the unusual triple star system. The total mass of the two binary stars is twelve times bigger than the one of our Sun.
A press release courtesy of the Niels Bohr Institute (@UCPH_Research), presenting our results on quadruples, dynamics, and mergers in the context of @NASA_TESS's TIC 470710327, a unique triple star system. https://t.co/9TRydUeivt
— Alejandro Vigna-Gómez (@alejandro_vigna) July 18, 2022
The structure of the TIC 470710327 star system is indeed pretty interesting. There are two binary stars orbiting one another in the center, while another star orbits the two binary stars themselves.
Alejandro Vigna-Gomez from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute explained, regarding the unusual star system:
As far as we know, it is the first of its kind ever detected
We know of many tertiary star systems (three star systems), but they are typically significantly less massive. The massive stars in this triple are very close together – it is a compact system.
The same scientists revealed that the binary stars complete an orbit in the same time our planet completes a rotation around its own axis: 24 hours.
The new research was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.