Astronomers found a Tatooine planet that is similar to Earth, even though it orbits two stars. Kepler-1647b is the largest planet to be discovered in a double-star system.
Another interesting detail is that Kepler-1647b is situated in the life-supporting zone of its two-suns world, meaning that its distance to the stars permits the existence of liquid water.
Just like its size, the planet structure too is similar to Jupiter’s, as it does not have a rock surface and it’s build from gas only.
There are other similarities between this newly discovered Tatooine system and our own solar system. For example, Kepler-1647b has approximately the same age as Earth. It was created 4.4 billion years ago. The size of the two stars is also close to the size of our sun, the primary star being a bit larger than the other.
The planet is located at 3,700 light years away from Earth, and it’s not visible without a telescope.
The discovery was made by the Kepler Space Telescope, which detected brightness modifications coming from the planet as it orbited its suns. The gas globe dimmed the light of its first star, and then the light changed again as the planet passed along the second star and it created a primary star eclipse.
Larger planets are easier to detect because they have a greater influence on the light quantity. However, the Tatooine planet has an orbital period so large that it transits its stars very rarely, and thus Kepler had not so many chances to capture light signals coming from it.
Kepler-1647b needs 1,107 days to complete its orbit, which is the largest orbit ever confirmed for a circumbinary planet.
Scientists detected the Tatooine planet as early as 2012, but several years of data analysis were needed to prove its existence. The planets that orbit two stars do not have regular transits. Their orbits can vary in duration and in depth, which makes them very difficult to be detected.
This year, scientists validated the presence of 1,284 exoplanets, many of which were observed by Kepler Space Telescope in 2014. The data coming from Kepler confirmed the theory that exoplanets are quite common in our galaxy, and may even be present in a greater number than stars.
Circumbinary planets that orbit two stars are already known to scientists. Several of them had been observed in our solar system, although none with a size as large as Kepler-1647b.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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