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Scientists Unlock Riddle Behind Kepler-34b Planet Orbiting Two Stars

Feb 1 2014, 8:28am CST | by

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Scientists Unlock Riddle Behind Kepler-34b Planet Orbiting Two Stars
 
 

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Scientists Unlock Riddle Behind Kepler-34b Planet Orbiting Two Stars

Over the past few years, astronomers have discovered several planets that are circumbinary. That is, they are planets that actually orbit two stars. Just like Tatooine in the Star Wars movies. One of those planets discovered is Kepler-34b, which was discovered in 2012.

One puzzle about Kepler-34b, and other planets like it, is that they challenge theories that astronomers have adopted as to how planets form in the first place. That’s because for the planet to have evolved where it is seems next to impossible based on our current understanding of the forces involved in the creation of early systems.

But according to research recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of researchers may have found the solution to the problem, using a set of complex computer models.  Their answer? Kepler-34b didn’t form in the same spot it is now.

“We find that super-catastrophic erosion events are the dominant mechanism up to and including the orbital radius of Kepler-34(AB)b, making in situ growth unlikely,” they wrote in the paper. In other words, the gravitational forces would have caused lots of debris to constantly hit and erode any planet that tried to form in that orbit.

Instead, the astronomers suggest, it’s more likely that the planet was actually formed over 120 million miles away, and slowly migrated into its current orbit. What’s more, this same process likely happened in other (thought not all) known circumbinary solar systems as well.

“Circumbinary planets have captured the imagination of many science-fiction writers and film-makers – our research shows just how remarkable such planets are,” said lead author Stefan Lines in a statement. ” Understanding more about where they form will assist future exoplanet discovery missions in the hunt for earth-like planets in binary star systems.”

It’ll be fascinating to see how this research helps to guide future research in observing how planets, both in our solar system and out of it, evolved to become the way they are now.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

Planets Outside Of Our Solar System

Source: Forbes

 

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