Kepler-47 system: Two planets with two suns discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission

By on Aug 29, 2012 in Astronomy, Science Comments

NASA‘s Kepler mission announced on on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 its first time discovery of two planets with two suns, which is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus; which is almost a year after a planet with two suns called Kepler-16b was discovered.

According to NASA on its official website that day, astronomers discovered two planets in the Kepler-47 system, and a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other every 7.5 days from our vantage point on Earth, with this discovery proving that more than one planet can form and persist in the area of a binary star.

As noted in the report, one star is similar to the sun in size, but is only 84 percent as bright; while the second star is very small, measuring only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright; and the two planets are called Kepler-47b and Kepler-47c.

Kepler-47b, being the the inner planet and is the smallest known transiting circumbinary planet, orbits the two suns in less than 50 days. It cannot be directly viewed, but NASA noted that it is could be a very hot world, where the destruction of methane in its super-heated atmosphere might lead to a thick haze that could blanket the planet.

On the other hand, the outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits its two stars every 303 days, noting to be in the so-called “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water is being believed to be on the planet’s surface. It is also being thought to be a gaseous giant slightly larger than Neptune.

“In contrast to a single planet orbiting a single star, the planet in a circumbinary system must transit a ‘moving target.'” Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University and lead author of the research report, was quoted as saying.

“As a consequence, time intervals between the transits and their durations can vary substantially, sometimes short, other times long. The intervals were the telltale sign these planets are in circumbinary orbits.” Orosz added.

Related Post: 11 new planetary systems with 26 confirmed planets discovered by NASA Kepler space telescope

Kepler 47 system
Diagram comparing our own solar system to Kepler-47, two planets orbiting two suns
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

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