Astronomers discover twin-sun planets 5,000 light-years away

Posted Jan 11, 2012 by Andrew Moran
Utilizing data from the NASA Kepler Mission, astronomers from the San Diego State University have discovered two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems, which are planets that orbit two stars – similar to the Tatooine planet in "Star Wars."
Kelpler 34b/35b Illustration
Kelpler 34b/35b Illustration
Last autumn, Digital Journal reported of NASA discovering a Star Wars-like planet orbiting two suns. The planet is named Kepler 16-b and its two suns are smaller than ours. It takes approximately 229 days for it to complete its orbit. It was deemed an uninhabitable cold gas giant.
Another extraordinary discovery has been made. Scientists at the San Diego State University analyzed data from NASA’s Kepler Mission and found two more Star Wars-like planets. The astronomers discovered two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems.
In a press release from the university, the two new planets, Kepler-34 b and Kepler-35 b, are gas giants that are actually in the habitable zone, or “goldilocks zone,” which means it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water.
Kelpler 34b/35b Illustration
Kelpler 34b/35b Illustration
San Diego State University
Kepler-34 b is roughly a quarter of the mass and three-quarters of the width of the largest gas giant in our solar system, Jupiter. It orbits its two stars, which are between 80 and 89 percent of the mass of our sun, in 289 days and is located 4,900 light-years from Earth.
Its neighbor, Kepler-35 b, is 13 percent of the mass and 73 percent of the width of Jupiter. It orbits around its twin-suns in 131 days with a distance of about 60 percent of that between our world and the sun. It is located 5,400 light-years from us.
Both planets live in the Cygnus constellation. These are the most distant planets discovered.
“It was once believed that the environment around a pair of stars would be too chaotic for a circumbinary planet to form, but now that we have confirmed three such planets, we know that it is possible, if not probable, that there are at least millions in the galaxy,” said San Diego State University’s William Welsh.
The study can be found in the journal Nature and the findings were presented by Welsh at the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.