Kepler-452b, the newly discovered planet, is said to be the smallest one orbiting so far inside the habitable zone.
Kepler-453 b is the third Kepler circumbinary planet found to lie in the habitable zone of its host pair of stars.
This is the tenth planet within a binary system to be discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission. Kepler-452b is 60 percent bigger than our Earth, when it comes to diameter and the planet is believed to be a super Earth size planet.
According to the astronomers, the size of the exoplanet suggested that it could be a gas giant and not a planet containing rocks.
Just like Tatooine, the fictional planet featured in Star Wars with two suns in its sky, Kepler-453b orbits around two stars that also circle each other every 27.3 days.
The odds are very much against seeing planets like 453b, because it has an erratic orbit pulled by two stars, and moves “like a spinning top”, as Kane mentioned in the release. The finding took researchers by surprise, since out of more than 1200 planetary systems discovered to date, not one could match our own solar system in terms of architecture. They announced details at the 29th global Astronomical Union General Assembly in Hawaii, and published them in the Astrophysical Journal. It’s likely it is a gas giant planet so the presence of life is ruled out.
Kane points out that the planet could have rocky moons that could potentially support life. It wasn’t known until recently was whether planets could form in these star systems. “The detection was a lucky catch for Kepler”, said William Welsh, professor of astronomy at San Diego State University and lead author of the study. Accurate assessments of size and mass, it’s been argued, helps researchers see if a planet is actually a terrestrial world (like Earth).
The other exciting news is that the exoplanet resides within the “Goldilocks” zone of both stars – which offer temperatures ideal for holding water and therefore, maintaining life. Exoplanets are already hard to see, usually located by what is known as the “transit method”, which allows astronomers to detect when a planet is passing in between us and a star when that star’s light dims. The systems tend to be very compact and they come in a wide range of configurations. “Each new circumbinary planet is a gem, revealing something unexpected and challenging”.
Scientists weren’t even certain if such systems existed until Kepler, a space telescope launched into orbit around the sun in 2009, confirmed their existence in 2011.