New Planet Is an Oddball With Three Suns
Captured in a rare direct image, the strange world may be doomed due to the dangerous dance of its orbital partners.
Imagine a world where seasons last approximately 140 years, where shadows occasionally come in triplets, where heat and pressure wring iron rain from the atmosphere, and where sunrises and sunsets are spectacularly variable: Sometimes there’s one sun in the sky, sometimes two, sometimes three.
This is planet HD 131399ab, a world four times as massive as Jupiter, and one of the few planets to have its picture taken directly.
That’s because the planet marches around one member of a three-star system, taking 550 Earth-years to complete one orbit. Two smaller stars also orbit the planet’s host, which is a bluish white giant almost twice the size of the sun. The smaller stars whirl around one another like a spinning dumbbell, creating a