Planet Hunting Spacecraft – Search for habitable planets
WHERE THE SUN SETS TWICE-PLANET KELPER-16B
-In the Light to Two Suns
NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one.
The existence of a world with a double sunset has, until now, been “the stuff of science fiction” confined to sci-fi movies such as Star Wars.
Over three decades later a world with double suns is now a scientific fact.
The new planet “Kepler-16b” is located 200 light-years from Earth, and like Tatooine, the home world of Star Wars Luke Skywalker, is a circumbinary planet – a planet which orbits two stars.
A cold and inhospitable world similar in size to Saturn, KELPER-16B is thought to consist of about 50 percent rock and 50 percent gas. A gas giant like Jupiter in the Earth’s system rather than another terrestrial type world. Much too cold for life. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69 percent the mass of the sun and the other only 20 percent. KELPER-16B orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.
Researchers in Austin, Texas have been busy calculating the likelihood of Earth-like planets existing around twin stars. Worlds with two suns.
The existence of Earth-like worlds in the habitable zones around binary systems is now thought possible by astrophysicists from the University of Texas at Arlington. These regions are the right temperature to support liquid water on its surface, as in oceans and seas, and therefore life, in a form familiar to us.
Using the Kepler-16 double sun system as a basis and beginning point it has been established that as with our own the habitable zone of this system is centered mostly on the system’s primary star and extends in a region around it equal to 0.36 to 0.71 the distance of the Earth to the sun. A roughly similar distance as that between Earth and neighboring planet Venus, out to about the distance of red planetary neighbor Mars.
One possibility the researchers have also explored the possiblility that a planet the size of Earth could be orbiting beyond the twin star system which would put it ouside the area considered the habitable zone. An area known as the extended region.
There have not been any "exomoons" found so far but the planned Space Telescope – the James Webb, will have the necessary facilities to study the atmosphere of an alien exomoon, detecting and analysing vital gases for example carbon dioxide and oxygen.
The Kelper Space Telescope has so far discovered:
21 confirmed planets
1235 Planetary Candidates
2165 Eclipsing Binary Stars