Two planets orbit the star’s poles, while another spins around its equator, implying the presence of unseen power star systems exist in a variety of sizes and designs some have several planets, others have larger planets, while yet others have none at all. However, astronomers are baffled by a peculiar system roughly 150 light-years away from our own.
Two planets circling the star HD 3167 were identified by astronomers in 2016. They were considered to be super-Earths, ranging in size from Earth to Neptune, and circled the star every one and a half days. In 2017, a third planet was discovered in the system, revolving in around eight days.
Star System With Right-Angled Planets
The inclinations of the outer two planets, HD 3167 c, and d, are peculiar. Unlike the planets in our solar system, which all orbit the sun in the same flat plane, these two are in polar orbits. That is, instead of going around the equator like Earth and the other planets in our system, they go above and below their star’s poles.
Scientists have now discovered that the system is even stranger than they previously assumed. The orbit of the innermost planet, HD 3167 b, has been measured for the first time, and it differs from the other two. Instead, it revolves in the flat plane of the star, perpendicular to HD 3167 c and d, as do planets in our solar system. This is the first time a star system has acted in this manner.
“It was certainly a surprise,” said Vincent Bourrier, a researcher at the University of Geneva in Switzerland who conducted the study, which was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics last month. “This is a whole different solar system than our own.”
While none of the planets are expected to be habitable, standing on one would provide a fascinating perspective of this strange system. “If you looked at the track of the other planets in the system via a telescope, they would be moving vertically in the sky,” Dr. Bourrier added.
Exoplanets in polar orbits are not uncommon, according to Andrew Vanderburg of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the original discovery of HD 3167 c and d but was not involved in the current study. The perpendicular nature of this arrangement, on the other hand, “is weird,” he remarked.
The recent finding was made possible by the ESPRESSO instrument on Chile’s Very Large Telescope. The scientists were able to follow the direction in which the innermost planet was passing in front of its star relative to us, known as a transit, and calculate the angle of its orbit using incredibly accurate measurements of the star.
An undetected item in the system’s outer reaches might be to blame for the system’s misalignment. The system was researched by Shweta Dalal of the University of Exeter in England, who found evidence of a Jupiter-sized planet circling the star every 80 days. The outer two planets may have been driven into their unique orbits by the gravitational pull of this world, while the innermost planet remained bound to the star due to its tight orbit.
Dr. Dalal said, “A Jupiter-sized planet might be large enough to shift the planets.”
While our solar system has its own enormous Jupiter, the broader orbits of our planets ensure that neither Earth nor the other planets have suffered the same fate. The planets around HD 3167, on the other hand, “are all inside the orbit of Mercury,” according to Dr. Dalal, and therefore close together, amplifying the impact of their interactions.
More systems like these may be discovered in future observations. The Gaia telescope, which is mapping billions of stars in the Milky Way, is anticipated to provide data on thousands of massive planets in other star systems shortly, including inclination data for those that transit, according to the European Space Agency.
Dr. Bourrier and his colleagues also aim to employ ESPRESSO to observe other systems in the future HD 3167’s odd arrangement exemplify how strange and fascinating other stars and their planets may be. “It puts everything we believe we know about the creation of planetary systems into perspective again,” Dr. Bourrier added. “Planets may change in a wide variety of ways.”
Two planets circling the star HD 3167 were identified by scientists in 2016.
They were considered to be supertierras, which orbited the star every one and a half days and were the same size as Earth and Neptune.
A third planet was discovered in the system in 2017, circling in around eight days.
The inclinations of the two outer planets, HD 3167 c, and d, are peculiar.
These two planets have polar orbits, whereas all of the planets in our solar system revolve in the same plane around the sun that is, instead of circling the equator like Earth and the other planets in our system, they move above and below their star’s poles scientists have now discovered that the system is considerably stranger than they previously believed.