Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kepler-16b: A planet with two suns

This artist's movie illustrates Kepler-16b, the first directly detected circumbinary planet, which is a planet that orbits two stars.

If you stay up long enough, you can watch both suns set. Such might be a common adage from beings floating in the atmosphere of Kepler 16b, a planet recently discovered by the space-based Kepler satellite. Although multiple star systems are quite common, this is the first known to have a planet. The frequent eclipses have given Kepler 16b the most accurate mass and radius determination for a planet outside our Solar System. To find a planet like Saturn in an orbit like Venus -- so close to its binary star parents -- was a surprise and will surely become a focus of research.

Research credit: NASA

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