A two star system in space is a solar system that has two suns. These systems, which are also called binary star systems can be a hazardous place for exoplanets. A new study is suggesting that alien planets born in widely separated two-star systems face a grave danger of being booted into interstellar space.
Intersteller space is the area of space within a galaxy that is not occupied by stars and their planets. As scientist search the galaxy for exoplanets that might possibly be able to support life, they look to planets that orbit single star systems like our own, with suns that are close to ours in size.
The new study says that exoplanets that circle a star with a far-flung stellar companion, meaning a two star system, are susceptible to violent and dramatic orbital disruptions, including outright ejection.
Such effects are generally limited to sprawling planetary systems with at least one distantly orbiting world, while more compact systems are relatively immune. This finding, which observational evidence supports, should help astronomers better understand the structure and evolution of alien solar systems across the galaxy, researchers said.
“The fact that planets observed within wide binaries tend to have more eccentric (or ‘excited’) orbits than those around isolated stars tells us that wide binaries do often disrupt planetary systems,” lead author Nathan Kaib, of Northwestern University and the University of Toronto, told SPACE.com via email. [ The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery) ]
“Thus, we believe most planetary systems are extended, with outer planets orbiting at tens of AU from their host stars,” Kaib added. (One AU, or astronomical unit, equals the distance from Earth to the sun — about 93 million miles.)
In 2011, Nasa’s Keplar Space Telescope discovered exoplanets that were part of a two star, or binary star systems. Scientists have been able to closely study these planet’s complicated orbits around systems with two suns.
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