Tech UPTechnologyThey discover a third planet in the first system...

They discover a third planet in the first system with two suns

Years after two planets were discovered orbiting a binary star in the Kepler 47 system, astronomers have found a new rarity for this system: a third planet, which is also the largest of all.

Like the planet Tatooine from Star Wars, with two suns, one bright and the other dark and red, two stars also rise above the horizon of the new planet Kepler 47d. But, unlike Tatooine which is dry and sandy, the surface of this planet is gaseous and its temperature is approximately 10 ° C.

The system also has two smaller planets: one closer to the double sun, and one further away. They both lack a solid surface. The newly discovered planet sits right in the middle of the other two, making an already noteworthy system even more unique and extraordinary, as it is the only known multi-planet circumbinary system.

Kepler 47’s compact system has little in common with our solar system, so astronomers are eager to learn all they can about it.

New planet!

Astronomers first saw Kepler 47d in 2012 with NASA’s Kepler space telescope, but the data was inconclusive. Observing a transit, when a planet passes in front of its star, causing a drop in light, also requires luck. The planets must be perfectly aligned with their star and an observer on Earth. And the truth is that there are some degrees of inclination, so the angle of the orbital planes changes over time.

The first time Kepler 47d crossed its star, according to the records, it was enough to make astronomers suspicious, but not enough to be conclusive. But as Kepler’s mission continued, the orbits became more aligned until the signal from the middle planet was unambiguous. Now the finding has been published in The Astronomical Journal.

This change in the planet’s orbit would not affect its seasons: Earth is also constantly in process in the same way for long periods, with relatively little impact on the planet or life.

Rare planets

That said, the seasons and temperature ranges on these three strange planets are a challenging and intriguing puzzle. While Kepler 47c is probably a gaseous planet with no solid surface, it may have moons that could support life.

To further complicate matters, astronomers do not believe that any of the planets formed in their current orbits. Instead, each would have formed away from their stars and then migrated inland.

Orbits

The two stars in the system, one similar to the Sun and one smaller and cooler, orbit each other every seven and a half days. Next up is Kepler 47b, which orbits every 49 days and is roughly three times the size of Earth. The new planet, Kepler 47d, orbits every 87 days and is 7 times the size of Earth, while the last planet, Kepler 47c, has a 303-day orbit and is 4.7 times the size of Earth.

The masses of the planets are more difficult to pin down, since Kepler only saw transits, which simply reveals how wide a planet is. But since the two stars and the three planets line up, scientists have some data on their masses and they are surprisingly light for their sizes.

The central planet is roughly the density of Saturn, while the outermost planet is less than half as dense.

It is still possible that there are more planets lurking in the Kepler 4 7 system, although they would have to hide further away from the stars, reducing the chance of them transiting and revealing themselves.

Referencia: Discovery of a Third Transiting Planet in the Kepler-47 Circumbinary System. Jerome A. Orosz, William F. Welsh, Nader Haghighipour, Billy Quarles, Donald R. Short, Sean M. Mills, Suman Satyal, Guillermo Torres, Eric Agol, Daniel C. Fabrycky. Published 2019 April 16 • © 2019. The American Astronomical Society.

 

Crédito imagen: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

 

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