NASA's latest breakthrough: First Six-star System Where All Six Stars Undergo Eclipses

Credit: Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Credit: Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Last minute discovery of NASA! The US space agency has just observed a 6-star system in which all those 6 stars suffer eclipses. It is the first such discovery and one of the first of this year. The system where NASA discovered that all 6 stars are involved in the eclipse is: TYC 7037-89-1, and the discovery was made by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). In addition, the US space agency said that the system discovered by TESS is 1900 light-years away from us in the constellation Eridanus.

This star system is quite different from others. First, is the first sextuple composed of three sets of eclipsing binaries. That means stellar pairs whose orbits tip into our line of sight so we observe the stars alternately passing in front of each other according to NASA. Secondly, it is very strange that all the 6 stars in that system participate in the eclipse. And these eclipes made it difficult to discover the system. This is because each eclipse causes a decrease in the overall brightness of the system. 

About the image above: 

As you can see, the binaries are marked with A, B and C. According to NASA, stars in systems A and C orbit each other in the approx. a day and a half. And only once in 4 years, the two BINARIES orbit each other. In system B, there, the stars rotate on each other every eight days. "The B binary's members circle each other about every eight days, but the pair is much farther away, orbiting around the inner systems roughly every 2,000 years." said NASA in an article written by Jeanette Kazmierczak, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 

In addition, the primary stars in all systems are smaller in size than the Sun, but they are almost as hot. The secondary stars are about half the size of the Sun.

How did NASA find this system?

Prior to the discovery of this system, NASA approached 100 systems out of 450,000 candidates with at least 3 stars. All 450,000 systems were discovered by TESS, then NASA chose 100 of them that have at least 3 stars or more, and among them was this new system. The 100 systems NASA has chosen have been analyzed and most likely still are, and one of them has been this system. 

The discovery was made by an international team that used data from TESS. The team was led by data researcher Brian P. Powell and astrophysicist Veselin Kostov of Goddard. Some of the team members were Saul Rappaport from MIT, Tamás Borkovits from Szeged University in Hungary, Petr Zasche from Charles University in the Czech Republic and Andrei Tokovinin from NSI's NOIRLab. 

The paper, "TIC 168789840: A Sextuply-Eclipsing Sextuple Star System," is here.

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 30 January 2022, at 03:27 am Los Angeles time

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