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The Loneliest Star is not so Lonely After all…In a galaxy far, far away…or rather only twenty-five light-years away, you will find one of the most studied and fascinating star systems in our galaxy – Fomalhaut. This unique and intriguing star system has captivated astronomers for years with its surrounding debris disk and recently confirmed exoplanet dubbed Fomalhault “b”. Originally referred to as “the loneliest star”, astronomers recently confirmed what science fiction novelists had predicted back in the 1890’s – Fomalhaut was a binary system. But that’s not all! Just when astronomers think they have this system figured out, Fomalhaut throws another curve ball. Home to the first visually confirmed exoplanet, this system is not simply a stellar duo as previously observed; it is now proven to be a triple star system!Through a little cosmic detective work and sheer coincidence, University of Rochester Associate Professor Eric Mamajek discovered the missing piece in this stellar trio. While working on another study, plotting motions of stars in the Fomalhaut vicinity, Mamajek and his team observed an unexpected red dwarf (LP 876-10) appearing to belong to the Fomalhaut system. It wasn’t until he had a chance meeting with Todd Henry (Georgia State University RECONS Director) in Chile that he found the essential clue to solving this stellar mystery - Parallax. No we are not referring to the villain in the Green Lantern comics, but rather the astronomical method used to determine distance.By using this technique, astronomers measured the speed and distance of LP 876-10 and determined it to be part of the Fomalhaut system, naming it Fomalhaut C. From our view here on Earth, Fomalhaut A and C appear to be very far apart. In reality they are approximately 5.5 degrees which appears to us as a distance of approximately 11 full moons! Fomalhaut A is a massive star with two times the mass of our Sun, allowing it to exert enough gravitational pull to reign in Fomalhaut C from such a distance.In our galactic neighborhood, there are eleven other multi-star systems. Fomalhaut is the most massive, widespread system with a flair for the dramatic. Like an actor always wanting to be in the spotlight, Fomalhaut keeps astronomers guessing. From an eccentric orbit to an off-center debris ring to a “zombie” exoplanet, who knows how many more secrets this stellar trio is hiding? Perhaps Fomalhaut C has an exoplanet or two? At an age of 440 million years old (1/10th the age of our solar system), this stellar trio is bound to reveal many more secrets over time.-ALTSource: 1, 2Image Credit: NASA View high resolution

The Loneliest Star is not so Lonely After all…

In a galaxy far, far away…or rather only twenty-five light-years away, you will find one of the most studied and fascinating star systems in our galaxy – Fomalhaut. This unique and intriguing star system has captivated astronomers for years with its surrounding debris disk and recently confirmed exoplanet dubbed Fomalhault “b”. Originally referred to as “the loneliest star”, astronomers recently confirmed what science fiction novelists had predicted back in the 1890’s – Fomalhaut was a binary system. But that’s not all! Just when astronomers think they have this system figured out, Fomalhaut throws another curve ball. Home to the first visually confirmed exoplanet, this system is not simply a stellar duo as previously observed; it is now proven to be a triple star system!

Through a little cosmic detective work and sheer coincidence, University of Rochester Associate Professor Eric Mamajek discovered the missing piece in this stellar trio. While working on another study, plotting motions of stars in the Fomalhaut vicinity, Mamajek and his team observed an unexpected red dwarf (LP 876-10) appearing to belong to the Fomalhaut system. It wasn’t until he had a chance meeting with Todd Henry (Georgia State University RECONS Director) in Chile that he found the essential clue to solving this stellar mystery - Parallax. No we are not referring to the villain in the Green Lantern comics, but rather the astronomical method used to determine distance.

By using this technique, astronomers measured the speed and distance of LP 876-10 and determined it to be part of the Fomalhaut system, naming it Fomalhaut C. From our view here on Earth, Fomalhaut A and C appear to be very far apart. In reality they are approximately 5.5 degrees which appears to us as a distance of approximately 11 full moons! Fomalhaut A is a massive star with two times the mass of our Sun, allowing it to exert enough gravitational pull to reign in Fomalhaut C from such a distance.

In our galactic neighborhood, there are eleven other multi-star systems. Fomalhaut is the most massive, widespread system with a flair for the dramatic. Like an actor always wanting to be in the spotlight, Fomalhaut keeps astronomers guessing. From an eccentric orbit to an off-center debris ring to a “zombie” exoplanet, who knows how many more secrets this stellar trio is hiding? Perhaps Fomalhaut C has an exoplanet or two? At an age of 440 million years old (1/10th the age of our solar system), this stellar trio is bound to reveal many more secrets over time.

-ALT

Source: 1, 2

Image Credit: NASA

(Source: facebook.com)

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