Astronomers discover two planets orbiting a two-star system

August 31, 2012  |   |  2 Comments
Print Friendly
binary planet system

Artist's rendition of the Kepler-47 system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

A team of astronomers, including University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Associate Astronomer Nader Haghighipour, has discovered the first two-planet system orbiting two stars. Their study was published in the journal Science.

Known as Kepler-47 because the data came from the Kepler spacecraft, this planetary system demonstrates that complete planetary systems can exist around a pair of stars.

The system contains the smallest known planet orbiting a pair of binary stars. The radius of the inner planet is only three times that of Earth and orbits the binary stars every 49 days. The radius of the outer planet is 4.6 times that of Earth (about the size of Uranus), and it orbits the binary every 303 days, making it the longest orbital period transiting planet known to date. A planet transits its star when it crosses in front of it as seen from Earth, or in this case, by Kepler.

More important, the outer planet’s orbit and the spectral types of the stars (G and M) place the planet well within the “habitable zone,” the region where a terrestrial planet could have liquid water on its surface. While this planet is most likely a gas-giant planet like Jupiter and not a terrestrial planet like Earth, and is thus not suitable for life, its discovery establishes that circumbinary planets can, and do, exist in habitable zones.

Adapted from a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute of Astronomy news release.

Tags: , ,

Category: Research

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. I´m a reseacher of Astronomy on Brazil and I believe that binary systems are much important to study. Today are more easy because of the modern observation technologies that improves the observation. this planetary system in question really demonstrate that planetary systems can exists around pairs of stars. Let´s go and search for more others!

  2. brian says:

    With a 303 day year, it sounds like, in theory, life could exist in a binary star system. It used to be we thought planets couldn’t form in a binary star system. I wonder, how elliptical the orbit is? Wow, that would be one impressive dawn.

Leave a Reply