Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have worked with colleagues to identify a three-star solar system. The fact that the system has three stars isn’t what’s exciting. It appears that the star system may have orbiting planets. If planets are orbiting the trio of stars, it would be the first triple star system ever discovered with planets orbiting.
Solar systems with two or more stars are believed to represent at least half of all-star systems making them extremely common. The star system the researchers have been studying is called GW Ori. If the team can confirm planets, it would be the first circumtriple orbit ever discovered. The researchers leveraged observations from the ALMA telescope and discovered a trio of dust rings around the three stars.
Dust rings of that type are required for planet formation. However, what makes the researchers believe the triple star system may already have orbiting planets are substantial gaps in the circumtriple disk. The team has investigated multiple potential regions for those gaps, including that gravitational torque from the stars caused them.
However, after constructing a comprehensive model of the star system, they determine the most likely explanation is the presence of one or more large Jupiter-like planets. Astronomers know that gas giants are typically the first types of planets to form in a star system, with planets similar to Earth and Mars coming later.
Scientists have been clear that no direct observations of planets in the star system have been made. The team expects additional observations using ALMA in the coming months and hopes additional evidence for planets will be discovered.