Two amateur astronomers, Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano, helped discover a new planet with a Star Wars-esque twist: the planet is the seventh confirmed planet that orbits two stars instead of one, called circumbinary planets.
The gas giant, named PH1, resides about 5,000 light-years from Earth. It orbits the binary pair of stars in about 138 days and is slightly larger than Neptune with a radius about 6.2 times larger than Earth’s. Scientists estimate the planet is too hot for habitation at a temperature range of 484 degrees Fahrenheit to 644 degrees Fahrenheit.
The really special thing about PH1, however, is the fact that the system it resides in is orbited by another binary part of stars, making it the first known quadruple-star system.
PH1 was discovered by the Yale University program, Planet Hunters, in which citizens and amateur astronomers work with professional scientists to find evidence of new worlds in data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
Since the program’s launch in March 2009, it has found evidence of more than 2,300 alien planets.
Gagliano said the discovery was “absolutely exciting.” He added, “It’s a great honor to be a Planet Hunter, citizen scientist, and work hand in hand with professional astronomers, making a real contribution to science.”