Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kepler Locates Multiple Planets Orbiting a Binary Star System

Kepler has found multiple planets in a Binary Star System.

Kepler has continued its stellar (pun intended) discovery spree, this time locating multiple planets orbiting a Binary Stars.  This is especially interesting because this proves that more than a single planet can form under the stresses of a binary star system.  

The system is known as a circumbinary planetary system, is a mechanism  where a planet orbits two stars. But prior to this discovery multiple planets in a circumbinary system was unproven.  Coming less than one year from the discovery Kepler-16b, the first circumbinary system discovered.

Named Kepler-47, the system consists of a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other every 7.5 days.  One star is similar in size to our Sol however it only provides approximately 84% of the light, the other is  smaller measuring one third of the size of our Sol and emits less than 1% the light.

On to the planets, named Kepler-47b and Kepler-47c..  Kepler-47b is closer to its two suns orbiting in 50 Earth sols. Kepler-47c  orbits every 303 days which would place it within the Goldilocks zone.  

"Unlike our sun, many stars are part of multiple-star systems where two or more stars orbit one another. The question always has been -- do they have planets and planetary systems? This Kepler discovery proves that they do," said William Borucki, Kepler mission principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "In our search for habitable planets, we have found more opportunities for life to exist."