Scientists say NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has for the first time detected a distant planet with a double sunset orbiting two waltzing stars.
According to the report published in the journal Science, there is a double sunset on Kepler-16b when the day ends.
“This is really a stunning measurement by Kepler,” Reuters quoted Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-author of the study as saying. “The real exciting thing is there’s a planet sitting out there orbiting around these two stars.”
Astronomers have seen binary stars, two suns turning around each other, and have suspected planets exist around them, but Kepler’s observations of the cool gas giant Kepler-16b are the first to confirm it.
According to Boss, the gravitational pull of two stars would be quite different from the gravity exerted by just one star.
Kepler is searching our section of the Milky Way galaxy for Earth-like planets in the “habitable zone” that is not too close and not too far away from the stars they orbit.
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a statement that the surface of Kepler-16b would be minus 73 to minus 101 degrees Celsius as it is both of its suns are smaller and cooler than our sun.
Kepler-16b orbits its two suns every 229 days at a distance of 104.6 million km, which is roughly the same distance as Venus’ orbit, compared to Earth’s 365-day orbit around the sun at a distance of about 149.7 million km.
Scientists say the newly detected planet is 200 light-years from Earth and does not harbor life.
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