Engineering 101

Massive Triple Star System First Detected by Amateurs

Astronomers announced a compact “one of a kind” system of three stars earlier this year. The star system consists of a binary set of stars (two stars that orbit one another) with a more massive star orbiting the binary. The orbital period of the binary is the same as that of the rotation of Earth (1 day). The combined mass of the two is 12x the mass of our Sun. The tertiary star is approximately 16x the mass of the Sun.

Amateur astronomers made the initial discovery of this unique system while going through a public data set from NASA’s TESS observatory (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). The amateurs made the professional astronomers aware of anomalies in the detection.

There are two ways to prove or disentangle theories on this formation of the stars. One is studying the system in detail, and the other is making statistical analyses on a population of stars. Researchers will be doing both.

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