Multiple Star Systems Have Planets


 How many stars does it take to “raise” a planet? In our own solar system, it took only one — our sun. However, new research from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows that planets might be forming in systems with as many as four stars.

This artist’s concept illustrates one such quadruple-star system, called HD 98800. The system is still relatively young, at 10 million years old. One of its two pairs of stars is known to be circled by a dusty disk, which contains materials that are thought to clump together to form planets. When Spitzer set its infrared gaze on the disk, it detected gaps. How did the gaps get there? One possible answer is that planets are growing in size and carving out lanes in the dust.

Spitzer found two gaps in the disk. The inner gap is about as far away from its central stars as Mars and the asteroid belt are from our sun. The outer gap is about as far away from its central stars as Jupiter is from the sun.

HD 98800 is located 150 light-years away in the constellation TW Hydrae.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA



  1. Don’t you think it’s more likely that life would evolve on planets that have only one star? Just thinking about it logically, wouldn’t the orbit around two (or more stars), as in the picture above, cause too much temperature variation on the planet?

    Eileen, Elementary Teacher Overseeas

  2. We (The Human Race) are infants in terms of what we understand about our universe and life in it. Time after time when people are quick to say: “Well life could not exist there because we know that life has to fit these rules.” they have turned out to be wrong. This of course is in reference to the extremophiles that we see here on earth living in the deepest caves off of rocks or in the deepest caverns in the ocean living off of volcanic vents. I believe that different types of life can exist outside of our understanding of what life is. Just look how diverse life is here on our little planet. keep in mind that all of our understanding of what life is, is based on this small pebble (earth) amidst the vastness of our surrounding universe.

    Depending on an array of variables you could have many variations of star type, star size, orbital paths and solar plains. Not to mention the rotational speed of a planet could render the planet cold or hot on either side for as long as a day here on earth or as long as it takes for the planet in question to orbit its star(s). For instance say a planet has an orbit and rotation speed similar to Venus. It would have one side of its surface facing its closest star(s), and possibly the “dark side” would face another star(s) that is further away that emits just enough heat to create a “habitable” zone as we know it. This of course is one example. In a universe of infinite possibilities I am sure there are countless other examples. So given infinite possibilities and our own limited understanding I think that life has a chance to survive and even “mutate’ (evolve) just about anywhere.

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