September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Even with two suns Kepler-16b is a cold, gaseous planet not believed to harbor life.
The Kepler Mission consists of a scientific NASA satellite called “Kepler” designed to discover Earth-size planets within our Milky Way galaxy.
New worlds are discovered when a planet crosses in front of its star as viewed by an observer, the event is called a transit. Transits by terrestrial planets produce a small change in a star’s brightness of about 1/10,000 (100 parts per million, ppm), lasting for 1 to 16 hours. This change must be periodic if it is caused by a planet.
Kepler-16b confirms the existence of a new class of planetary systems. This is especially important because most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system. This discovery increases the chance of life on other planets.
Unlike its SyFy counterpart Tatooine, Kepler-16b is inhospitable, a cold planet as big as Saturn and believe to be made up of rock and gas. Nevertheless some scientists are beginning to informally call Kepler-16b, Tatooine.
Visual effects supervisor John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic commented on the discovery saying, “It’s possible there’s a real Tatooine is out there.”
NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers a World Orbiting Two Stars (kepler.nasa.gov)
NASA Discovers “Tatooine” — First Planet With Two Suns (mashable.com)
NASA’S Kepler Discovery Confirms First Planet Orbiting Two Stars (nasa.gov)