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This fantastic movie from NASA's JPL offers a first glimpse of the orbital mechanics of Tatooione! Er, I mean Kepler-16b, the first directly detected planet that orbits two stars. This video shows the cool orbital mechanics of stellar eclipses and transits in a complex system. Check it out!

Kepler astronomers discovered the planet by observing as it transited its parent stars. The stars can also be detected eclipsing each other. The two orbiting stars regularly eclipse each other from Earth's point of view. As it transits across the surface of each star, the planet also eclipses them, offering NASA's Kepler spacecraft data to very accurately measure the planet.

In fact, Kepler-16b is one of the most accurately measured planets outside our solar system, with a size of 0.7538 that of Jupiter; a mass of 0.333 that of Jupiter (about the mass of Saturn); and a density of 0.964 grams per cubic centimeter. Because the orbits of the stars and the planet align within a degree of each other, it's clear that the planet formed within the same disk that the stars formed within, rather than being captured later by the two stars. The planet is cold, lying just beyond the "habitable zone" of its stars, and is made up of about half gaseous material with a rocky core.

The largest star in the Kepler-16b system is a bit smaller than our sun (about 69 percent of its mass), and the smaller star, called a red dwarf, is even lower in mass (about 20 percent of the sun's mass).

I love living in the Space Age. When do we get to visit? I want to see a double sunset from the cloud-tops.




( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
I'm with you, with one exception-I want a wetter climate than Tatooione.

I thought this link might appeal to you:

Sep. 21st, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
I'm sure it's wetter, though if it's a giant planet like Saturn, we might not want to be low enough to enjoy the water....

That's awesome! Folding@Home FTW!
Sep. 20th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
And I see that you are a member of ONTD-S, so you've likely seen it already. Should have looked up your profile before I posted it!
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Oh, I hadn't read that widely in LJ yet - I start reading blogs with close friends first, then expand out to other friends, then communities as I have time, so that was news to me. Thanks!
Sep. 20th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Damn, that's cool! I want to see a double sunset too!
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Love your icon!
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
I had no idea what was going on til I read what you wrote. so the mini-star is also orbiting the bigger one...

I do wonder what it would look like from a position on the surface of the planet.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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