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Friday, 17 June 2016

NASA discovers largest new planet that orbits two suns

The mysteries of space are a forever metamorphosing phenomena, with something new and enchanting being revealed every day.

Scientists are working tirelessly to decode the enigma that is the universe through various means.

In a new revelation, NASA has discovered a new planet that is also the largest planet that orbits two suns!

The new planet was discovered by a team led by astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and San Diego State University (SDSU) in California, who used NASA's Kepler Space Telescope to identify the new planet, Kepler-1647b.

The team said that the planet is too unobtrusive to be seen by the naked eye, but falls in the direction of the constellation Cygnus.

As per NASA, Kepler-1647 is 3,700 light-years away and approximately 4.4 billion years old, roughly the same age as Earth. The stars are similar to the sun, with one slightly larger than our home star and the other slightly smaller. The planet has a mass and radius nearly identical to that of Jupiter, making it the largest transiting circumbinary planet ever found.

Planets that orbit two stars are known as circumbinary planets, or sometimes “Tatooine” planets, after Luke Skywalker’s home world in “Star Wars.” Using Kepler data, astronomers search for slight dips in brightness that hint a planet might be passing or transiting in front of a star, blocking a tiny amount of the star’s light.

“But finding circumbinary planets is much harder than finding planets around single stars,” said SDSU astronomer William Welsh, one of the paper’s coauthors. “The transits are not regularly spaced in time and they can vary in duration and even depth.”

NASA further reported that, the planet takes 1,107 days – just over three years – to orbit its host stars, the longest period of any confirmed transiting exoplanet found so far. The planet is also much further away from its stars than any other circumbinary planet, breaking with the tendency for circumbinary planets to have close-in orbits. Interestingly, its orbit puts the planet with in the so-called habitable zone–the range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

(Source: NASA)