As one sun sets on Kepler-16 b, another is still visible in the sky. This planet has a circumbinary orbit, moving around two stars at once. Sometimes called Tatooine after the Star Wars film series, this two-sun planet was first noticed when one of the system’s stars grew dim while the other was not eclipsing. The planet has a mass comparable to Saturn and orbits its stars every 229 days.
For an orbit to be stable, experts believed a planet in a two-star system would have to be at a far greater distance to survive. A planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology states that “this planet broke the rule.” In 2014, the planet completed transiting the dimmer star. Using a method that allows long-distance observation, its path will remain undetectable until about 2042 when Kepler-16 b emerges from transiting the brighter star.
Oil on Canvas
Eva Bod ’20
Laurance Doyle, Joshua Carter, Daniel Fabrycky, Robert Slawson, Steve Howell, Joshua Winn, Jerome Orosz, Andrej Prša, William Welsh, Samuel Quinn, David Latham, Guillermo Torres, Lars Buchhave, Geoffrey Marcy, Jonathan Fortney, Avi Shporer, Eric Ford, Jack Lissauer, Darin Ragozzine, Michael Rucker, Natalie Batalha, Jon Jenkins, William Borucki, David Koch, Christopher Middour, Jennifer Hall, Sean McCauliff, Michael Fanelli, Elisa Quintana, Matthew Holman, Douglas Caldwell, Martin Still, Robert Stefanik, Warren Brown, Gilbert Esquerdo, Sumin Tang, Gabor Furesz, John Geary, Perry Berlind, Michael Calkins, Donald Short, Jason Steffen, Dimitar Sasselov, Edward Dunham, William Cochran, Alan Boss, Michael Haas, Derek Buzasi, & Debra Fischer, “Kepler-16: A Transiting Circumbinary Planet”, Science, 16 September 2011