MOFFET FIELD, CALIF. – Conservative scientists are up in arms over the recent discovery of an extrasolar planet with four suns, an unconventional array that goes against the traditional view of a solar system.
“A solar system should consist of planets orbiting one sun, and only one,” said Martin Farver, an astronomer at the NASA Ames Research Center. “This multiple star system is an aberration. It flies in the face of everything we know about good planet rearing.”
The discovery of PH1, the name given to the notorious new gas giant, challenges the hard-line hypothesis that a planet’s orbit should be guided by the loving fusion of two hydrogen nuclei in the traditional confines of a single star.
“How will this strange grouping affect the poor planet?” asked Hugh Brendt, a scientist at the Rose Center of Earth and Space in New York. “Will it eventually be ripped apart by confusing centripetal forces? Will it be influenced to form a multiple star system of its own? What kinds of perverse accretion disks is PH1 being exposed to?”
Especially unnerving is the indirect manner of observation. At a distance of 5,000 light years from Earth, PH1 was discovered by amateur scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler telescope. Without a money shot, scientists only know that the planet orbits one pair of suns while being orbited by the outer pair.
“Which of the four suns give, and which receive, during Roche Lobe overflow?” Brendt asked. “We don’t know what these stars are hiding behind shuttered lenses. Only a higher-powered telescope could help us get all up in there, nice and tight.”
Astroconservatives fear the four-sun system is a slippery slope leading to even more bizarre sun-planet configurations: brown dwarf on gas giant; nebulae double-penetrated by binary-curious rogue planets; main-sequence stars – usually so vanilla – mutually choking each other with asteroid belts.
“It would be chaos,” Brendt said. “Up would be down, and down would be up. Don’t people know the universe doesn’t work like that?”