Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[LINK] The Kepler-47 Planetary System

Kepler-47 Planetary System

I found this NASA graphic illustrating Jason Major's Universe Today article "A Moon With Two Suns", this graphic illustrates the known worlds of the Kepler-47 planetary system. Kepler-47 is of note as it is the first planetary system discovered with multiple planets orbiting two stars. (Last September I noted the discovery of the Kepler-16 planetary system, which has only one planet orbiting two stars.)

Kepler-47c is of note for orbiting in the habitable zone of the system. While it is likely some kind of superterrestrial world or ice giant, Kepler-47c may possess relatively Earth-like moons. NASA is excited.

While the inner planet, Kepler-47b, orbits in less than 50 days and must be a sweltering world, the outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits every 303 days, putting it in the "habitable zone," where liquid water might exist. But Kepler-47c is slightly larger than Neptune, and hence in the realm of gaseous giant planets, difficult to imagine as suitable for life. That does not preclude the chance that it has large a moon with a solid surface and liquid water lakes or seas. Kepler-16b was likened to Tatooine, Luke Skywalker's home planet in the movie Star Wars—a world with a double sunset. Kepler-47c suggests a different possible scene: our hero standing on a moon, gazing at a double sunset, with a Neptune-class planet rising behind her.

The research team used data from the Kepler space telescope, which measures dips in the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, to search for transiting planets. Using ground-based telescopes at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin, they made crucial spectroscopic observations to determine characteristics of the stars in the binary system which is 4,900 light-years from Earth. They are orbiting each other very fast, eclipsing each other every 7.5 days. One star is similar to the Sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is a red dwarf star only one-third the size of the Sun and less than one percent as bright.

At a first glance, Kepler-47c seems to have a very eccentric orbit. This would create serious seasonal effects on any moons orbiting Kepler-47c, and on the planet itself.
Tags: extraterrestrial life, links, maps, space science
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