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Planet with four stars discovered

(Xinhua)

16:09, October 16, 2012

LONDON, Oct 15 (Xinhua) -- A planet whose skies are illuminated by four stars has been discovered for the first time by an international team of researchers.

University of Oxford said in a statement on Monday that its astronomers joined the team to identify the planet, which is called PH1 and located 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus.

It orbits one pair of stars, and in turn has a second pair of stars revolving around it, which is like four suns illuminating its skies.

Whilst binary stars - system with pairs of stars - are not uncommon, out of the thousands of planets discovered outside our solar system until now only six had been found orbiting binary stars, and none of these are known to have another pair of stars circling them.

The new discovered planet is the seventh to be found orbiting binary stars, and the first to have four stars. Quite how such a four star system remains stable enough not to tear it apart is a mystery.

"It's fascinating to try and imagine what it would be like to visit a planet with four Suns in its Sky, but this new world is confusing astronomers - it's not at all clear how it formed in such a busy environment," said Dr. Chris Lintott at Oxford University.

The planet PH1 is thought to be a "gas giant" slightly larger than Neptune but over six times the size in radius of the Earth.

It was discovered by two US volunteers using the Planethunters.org website. The team of professional astronomers then confirmed the discovery using the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

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