Friday, May 11, 2012

Double sunsets on a distant world

1- If you were stranded on a recently discovered planet called Kepler-16b and looked up during the day, you’d see an unusual light show: two glowing orbs making their way across the sky.

2- Yes ! somewhere deep in the Universe, scientists have found for the first time a planet orbiting two stars (binary stars is what we call them).

3- If you were on that planet, there would be two sunsets and two sunrises, one for each star the planet orbits

4- And those two stars also orbit each other, which means they’d appear to change position in the sky.

5- You’d get a different sunset every day!

6- The two stars are locked together by gravity in a binary, or double, star system. 

7- Scientists say “Now that we know how to find them, what they look like, and the things to look for, we’re probably going to find a few more,”

8- Since then, scientists have discovered hundreds, possibly thousands, of planets outside our solar system.

9- Kepler-16b is about the size of Saturn, and a year on Kepler-16b lasts about 226 days on Earth. 

10- Its two host stars are small, and if you smooshed them together, they’d still have less heft than the sun.