First planet discovered orbiting two suns nicknamed “Tatooine”

Kepler-16b

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.”

Related Stories

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)

Orbiting the Earth [video]

NASA footage of the Earth from orbit.

 


SpaceX, front-runner to replace retired NASA shuttles?

Dragon Spacecraft with Solar Panels deployed

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX plans to send a rocket to the International Space Station.

The goal would be to send an unmanned Dragon space capsule on a test mission to the ISS and dock with the station. If successful the mission would bring SpaceX closer to a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.

“NASA has given us a Nov. 30, 2011, launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,” the company said.

If the mission is a success SpaceX would become the front-runner for shuttling cargo and astronauts to the space station for NASA.

The Dragon capsule and 18-story Falcon 9 rocket is built by SpaceX in an old fuselage assembly building in Hawthorne. The building was once used by Boeing Co.’s to assemble 747 jumbo jets.

Dragon approaching International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

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