A Jupiter-like exoplanet — in the constellation Centaurus — orbits the brightest star in a three star group — apparently without being spun out of the system

© 2016 Peter Free

Citation — to study

Kevin Wagner, Dániel Apai, Markus Kasper, Kaitlin Kratter, Melissa McClure, Massimo Robberto, and Jean-Luc Beuzit, Direct imaging discovery of a Jovian exoplanet within a triple-star system, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9671 (first release ahead of print, 07 July 2016)

Citation — to ESO press release

Richard Hook, A Surprising Planet with Three Suns, European Southern Observatory (07 July 2016)

Educated guesses

From the European Southern Observatory:

Located about 320 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), HD 131399Ab is about 16 million years old, making it also one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date, and one of very few directly imaged planets.

With a temperature of around 580 degrees Celsius and an estimated mass of four Jupiter masses, it is also one of the coldest and least massive directly-imaged exoplanets.

[O]bservations and simulations seem to suggest [that] . . . the brightest star is estimated to be eighty percent more massive than the Sun and dubbed HD 131399A, which itself is orbited by the less massive stars, B and C, at about 300 au (one . . . astronomical unit . . . equals the average distance between the Earth and the Sun).

All the while, B and C twirl around each other like a spinning dumbbell, separated by a distance roughly equal to that between the Sun and Saturn (10 au).

In this scenario, planet HD 131399Ab travels around the star A in an orbit with a radius of about 80 au, about twice as large as Pluto’s in the Solar System, and brings the planet to about one third of the separation between star A and the B/C star pair.

The authors point out that a range of orbital scenarios is possible, and the verdict on the long-term stability of the system will have to wait for planned follow-up observations . . . .

© 2016 Richard Hook, A Surprising Planet with Three Suns, European Southern Observatory (07 July 2016) (extracts)

To envision what this is saying, look at the excellent illustrations attached to the press release.

The moral? — Pictures nail it down for our visually oriented brains

The ESO’s press release admirably shows us what it is talking about. Too bad that more publications don’t do the same.