The star, which appears as a single dot of light to the unaided eye, is actually a double star, i.e., two stars in the same system; but the two stars orbit each other in such a close orbit that they cannot be distinguished visually. The total mass for the pair of stars is at least 6 solar masses, which is much higher that any other stars around which planets have been confirmed. It was previously highly unclear if planets would even be able to exist in such systems, so the discovery shows that planets can reside in a much wider variety of stars than many astronomers had expected.


Två små ljuspunkter i omloppsbana runt en central maskerad stjärna
ESO/Janson et al.

The study was published in the December 8 issue of Nature, and was led by Markus Janson at the Department of Astronomy at Stockholm University and also included Simon Ringqvist and Gayathri Viswanath at the same institution. The discovery was made using the SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, operated by the European Southern Observatories (ESO). More information and images are available at the ESO homepage: