As a reminder that the universe just gets stranger and stranger the farther you get from Earth, here are 10 of the most awesome, extreme and enigmatic space structures discovered in 2021.
This year, scientists found compelling evidence that the rarest type of planet in the universe — a single world orbiting three stars simultaneously — is perched on the tip of the hunter constellation’s great, gassy nose.
The star system, known as GW Orionis (or GW Ori) and located about 1,300 light-years from Earth, makes a tempting target for study; with three dusty, orange rings nested inside one another, the system literally looks like a giant bull’s-eye in the sky. At the center of that bull’s-eye are three stars — two locked in a tight binary orbit with each other, and a third swirling widely around the other two. In a paper published Sept. 17 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers built on previous data to show that a wobbly misalignment in the star system’s three rings is almost certainly caused by the presence of a large, Jupiter-size planet inside one of the rings. If confirmed by future research, this enormous world will become the first “circumtriple” planet, or planet orbiting three stars, ever detected in the universe — and will give Luke Skywalker’s double-sunned home world Tatooine a real run for its money.
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