Image Credit: Artist's illustration of planets developing in a transition disk like LkCa 15. The planets inside the disk clearing sweep up material that would have else fallen onto the star, NASA/JPL-Caltech
The gap around the parent star LkCa 15 was first detected in 2011, which showed the potential for the star to have at least one exoplanet. For this newest study, astronomers were able to detect hot gas (9,700°C [17,500 °F]) sinking onto the closer planet LkCa 15b. Examining the data from the system, astronomers realized there were other discharges in the gap: One signal was acknowledged as a second planet after being observed numerous times. A third discharge is supposed to be another planet but is yet to be confirmed.
This finding and the success of this method offers new opportunities to study how planetary systems form and how new planets interrelate with the disk of material around the star.