MILTON KEYNES, England, July 9 (UPI) -- Imagine living in a solar system with five stars. Roosters would be crowing constantly. Sleep would be nearly impossible.
That's the reality for any potential aliens living among the star system newly discovered by astronomers at the Open University. Their new study, while not confirming extraterrestrial life, details the universe's first quintuple star system containing two eclipsing binary stars.
Astronomers study faraway stars by observing patterned dips in a light curve as planets pass in front of their host star. The same method can be used to spot binary star systems, as one star moves in front of the other as they orbit around their mutual center of gravity.
Using data collected by SuperWASP -- a series of small cameras in the Canary Islands that offer a wide-angle view of the cosmos -- researchers located what they first believed was a lone contact eclipsing a binary, two orbiting stars sharing parts of their outer atmospheres.
But further analysis showed a second dip, revealing a second eclipsing binary with a bit more space between them. The two sets of stars are separated by 13 billion miles.
The surprises weren't through, however.
After discovering the two binaries, researchers began analyzing the system spectroscopically by separating the light into separate wavelengths. In studying the light of each star separately, astronomers found a fifth star rotating around the second binary pair.
The system -- called 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5 -- lies 250 light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major. All five of the stars are smaller and cooler than our sun, but together they shine brightly enough to be spotted by modest backyard telescopes.
"This is a truly exotic star system. In principle there's no reason it couldn't have planets in orbit around each of the pairs of stars," astronomer Marcus Lohr said in a press release. "Any inhabitants would have a sky that would put the makers of Star Wars to shame -- there could sometimes be no fewer than five Suns of different brightnesses lighting up the landscape."
"Days would have dramatically varying light levels as the different stars were eclipsed," Lohr added. "They would though miss out on night for a large part of their 'year,' only experiencing darkness (and a night sky) when the stars were on the same side of their world."