Kepler Mission Finds an Entire System of Planets Orbiting a Double Star
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September 14, 2012

Kepler Mission Finds an Entire System of Planets Orbiting a Double Star

 

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NASA's Kepler Mission has just discovered an entire system of planets orbiting a double star. The star system, known as Kepler-47, is located 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Two stars orbit one another at the center of the system: One is similar to the sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is smaller, only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright. Kepler found two planets orbiting this mismatched pair. 

"In our search for habitable worlds, we have just found more opportunities for life to exist," said William Borucki, Kepler mission principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center.

"The presence of a full-fledged planetary system orbiting Kepler-47 is an amazing discovery," says Greg Laughlin, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. "This is going to change the way we think about the formation of planets."

The inner planet, Kepler-47b, closely circles the pair of stars, completing each orbit in less than 50 days. Astronomers think it is a sweltering world, where the destruction of methane in its super-heated atmosphere might lead to a thick global haze. Kepler-47b is about three times the size of Earth. The outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits every 303 days. This puts it in the system's habitable zone, a band of orbits that are "just right" for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet.

But does this planet even have a surface? Possibly not. The astronomers think it is a gas giant slightly larger than Neptune. The discovery of planets orbiting double stars means that planetary systems are even weirder and more abundant than previously thought.

"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?" says Borucki. "This Kepler discovery proves that they do."

Our own sun is a single, isolated star, with a relatively simple gravitational field that rules the motions of the planets orbiting it. But, as Borucki points out, not all stars are single. Astronomers estimate that more than half of the stars in the galaxy have companions. There are double, triple and even quadruple star systems.

Any planets in such systems would have to navigate a complex gravitational field, tugged in multiple directions by multiple stars. In fact, for many years, astronomers doubted that planets could even form in such an environment. Kepler-47 erases those doubts—and poses a conundrum: "These planets are very difficult to form using the currently accepted paradigm," says Laughlin. "I believe that theorists, myself included, will be going back to the drawing board to try to improve our understanding of how planets are assembled in the dusty gaseous disks that surround many young stars."

 

           30-scientistsdi

The Daily Galaxy via NASA

Comments

Yet another misleading headline. "An entire planetary system" while accurate is misleading. I expected an article about 5 or 6 planets.

Plantery system implies more than 1 planet in the system Rob. The title is not misleading, you just assumed something you shouldnt have.

Regardless of how many planets are in the system, This is an amazing discovery. Now if we can just find that 1 rocky planet in the green zone with liquid water! I have the utmost faith in Kepler.

Yawn... wake me when Kepler finds Orion slave girls.

Just kidding. This is an amazing find. I just wonder actually Scythia ly how abundant water is in our galaxy.

So many new discoveries - Sedna, Kepler system, runaway black holes etc - reminding us that we are not just observers of the cosmos, but a part of it, and that our petty little wars and antagonisms here on earth are insignificant in the face of our greater, cosmological being. Every day now, I look up and take a moment to say hello to my larger home.

Awesome discovery!

*still hopes for large hidden planet in orbit around the sun at a Sedna-type distance*

STAR SYSTEMS RELATES TO THE GALACTIC FORMATION
Quote: These planets are very difficult to form using the currently accepted paradigm," says Laughlin. I believe that theorists, myself included, will be going back to the drawing board to try to improve our understanding of how planets are assembled in the dusty gaseous disks that surround many young stars."

AD: As stated many times before here on DailyGalaxy, our solar system is an orbiting and integrated part of the formation in the Milky Way, and therefore it only can be understood as such – and so can the double star system in this article.

That is: The formation process in the Milky Way is going in circuits via thermodynamics and electrodynamics where all matter and gas are formatted in the galactic centre; distributed out in the galactic arms as stars and planets etc. and again going from the arms into the galactic centre funnels/holes where it is dissolved and re-formatted.(This explanation also confirm “the galactic rotation anomaly”)

- When connecting the gravity-term to this circuit movement of formation, one can state that gravity really goes both ways. Once our solar system was born directly in the Milky Way centre to where it once will return and be re-formatted. (This explanation also confirm “the galactic rotation anomaly”)

It is a known fact that our planet adds on second to its revolution around the sun. It is also known fact that there were not always 24 hours in a day and 365.24 days in a year. In the distant future we will one day have 25 hours in a day and 366 days in a year as the planets spin away from the sun. If we are steadily spinning away from our mother sun, would it, also, be true that other planets would do the same. Some of these planets that are to close, in the future would be at a greater distance? If there are rocky planets in the solar system, blocked by the super gas giants, would be visible to us and be away from the hot zone? We should not be to quick to judge what the total composition of a solar system is at this stage of their development.

Just think of the possibilities for moons around Kepler-47c. If jupter orbited the sun where mars is, There could be life on 3 or 4 of its moons. Europa would be a water world as well as Callisto and Ganymede. Pandora here we come. Here blue kitty...kitty.

@kristi276,
I agree with you in your good points - and your opinion goes along with my explanation that our solar system was created in the Milky Way centre from where it has spread out in the galactic arms - and this outgoing motion confirms what you are saying: There is a still outgoing motion where the sun slowly moves away from the galactic centre and where the planets in our solar system also moves slowly away from the sun.

Cheers Ivar

Frankly it's amazing what Kepler is doing. Think what future instruments will do to find we're definitely not alone in the galaxy. Doing the numbers of how many planets there are in the galaxy itself, it's not surprising that there are planets similar to Earth. But in the 4.5 billion years Earth has been evolving from accretion to present, it's only been in the last million years that intelligent life has existed here so far as we know...just a fraction of the time Earth has been a globe. So it stands to reason that hundreds or thousands of Earth like planets may not have intelligent life yet, or quite the opposite, they could very well have intelligent life, albeit life that's visiting us right now (and has for ages). Had you stepped out of your space ship a billion years ago, Earth would have been over 3 billion years old and life would be entirely different, right? The whole galaxy is teaming with life, question is, where in its development cycle would intelligence, albeit high intelligence emerge?

The Earth has been a frozen ball twice so they say and has endured horrendous volcanism and impacts, all of which destroyed most of life here..had you visited Earth then you'd have thrown up your hands pr claws and said, "what a waste land"...yet with a little patience, say a few billion years give or take, lookie here.


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