Astronomers have discovered what could be two planets that share the same orbit around their star. They say that it is the strongest evidence to date of this strange cosmic couple, of which there were suspicions, but no evidence. The researchers published their finding on Wednesday.
Using a telescope in Chile, the Spanish team discovered a cloud of debris in the same orbit as a confirmed planet orbiting this star in the Centauri constellation, 370 light-years from Earth. They suspect that it is a planet in formation or the remains of what was a planet.
It is known of asteroids that accompany planets around their star: this is the case of Jupiter and the so-called Trojans. But the planets that share the orbit "until now have been like unicorns," said Jorge Lillo-Box, from the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, one of the authors of the paper.
“Their existence is recognized in theory, but no one has detected them,” he said in a statement.
The scientists said they will have to wait until 2026 to track the two objects around the star called PDS 70.
The identified planet and its presumed companion take 119 years to complete the revolution. It is a gas giant, three times the size of Jupiter. Another gas giant is known to orbit this star, albeit at a much greater distance.
Lead author Olga Balsalobre-Ruza, from the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, said the finding, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, is "the first proof" of the possible existence of this double world.
"We can imagine that a planet can share its orbit with thousands of asteroids as happens with Jupiter, but it is amazing to me to think that there can be planets sharing the same orbit," he said in a statement.