Two exoplanets in a tight orbital dance.


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Two exoplanets in a tight orbital dance.

“These are the closest two planets to one another that have ever been found,” Agol said. “The bigger planet is pushing the smaller planet around more, so the smaller planet was harder to find.”

Orbiting a star in the Cygnus constellation referred to as Kepler-36a, the planets are designated Kepler-36b and Kepler-36c. Planet b is a rocky planet like Earth, though 4.5 times more massive and with a radius 1.5 times greater. Kepler-36c, which could be either gaseous like Jupiter or watery, is 8.1 times more massive than Earth and has a radius 3.7 times greater.

But wait, there’s more!

The fact that the two planets are so close to each other and exhibit specific orbital patterns allowed the scientists to make fairly precise estimates of each planet’s characteristics, based on their gravitational effects on each other and the resulting variations in the orbits. To date, this is the best-characterized system with small planets, the researchers said.

They believe the smaller planet is 30 percent iron, less than 1 percent atmospheric hydrogen and helium and probably no more than 15 percent water. The larger planet, on the other hand, likely has a rocky core surrounded by a substantial amount of atmospheric hydrogen and helium.

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2 comments

  • “The bigger planet is pushing the smaller planet around more . . . ”

    This is an outrage. It’s unconscionable in this day and age that solar system bullying is taking place. Every planet deserves a safe and secure orbit, free from fear of larger planets. Congress should pass a law requiring stars to furnish a haven for bullied planets, and require that bullying planets be sent to the local Kuiper belt until they’ve cooled down. We cannot stand by and just let big planets bully other planets. Bullied planets suffer from self-esteem issues their entire lives, and could become tidally locked-up, becoming a burden to their parent star. Please join me in contacting your Congressional representative, and encouraging them to introduce the Fairness in Orbital Occupation Law.

    I’d wager that, properly presented, you could get Joe Biden and at least a dozen Hollywood celebrities to sign on with this.

  • Chris Kirkendall

    LOL ! ! Sadly, you may be right about that ! ! Now, it’s also “funny” that those same folks don’t seem to have a problem with Barack Obama bullying a girl when he was in school, as he wrote about in one of his books… Hmmmm….

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