Odd trio may help astronomers test ideas about planet formation
Cheongho Han, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea
Astronomers have discovered a frozen, rocky planet orbiting one of a pair of faint red stars. Researchers reported the discovery in the July 4 Science.
It’s not the first planet found orbiting one star in a binary, but it is the first to be discovered with microlensing, the temporary brightening of light from a more distant star. This stellar pair is also much more compact than most other binary systems with planets. And it’s the first planet-hosting binary where both stars are M dwarfs, which make up roughly three-quarters of the stars in the galaxy.
Since roughly half of sunlike stars are part of a pair, such duos are a potentially fertile ground for planet hunters. Planets that orbit binary stars can also help astronomers understand how planets form in unusual environments.