What's TOI-178? 5 planets found in strange rhythmic dance around a star 200 light-years away baffle scientists

Astronomers have discovered a ‘special’ system with multiple planets that are locked in an unusual rhythm around their central star, called TOI-178.

The planetary system boasts of six exoplanets and all but the one closest to the star are locked in the rare “rhythmic dance” as they move in their orbits.

“Six-exoplanet system with rhythmic movement challenges theories of how planets form,” suggest scientists in their analysis published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The fastest (the innermost planet) completes an orbit in just a couple of days, while the slowest takes about ten times longer.

“This contrast between the rhythmic harmony of the orbital motion and the disorderly densities certainly challenges our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems,” says Leleu.

ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is set to begin operating this decade, will be able to directly image rocky exoplanets in a star’s habitable zone and even characterize their atmospheres, presenting an opportunity to get to know systems like TOI-178 in even greater detail, concludes the team.

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