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Astronomers have discovered a third planet in the Kepler-47 system, securing the system's title as the most interesting of the binary-star worlds. Using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of researchers, led by astronomers at San Diego State University, detected the new Neptune-to-Saturn-size planet orbiting between two previously known planets.
With its three planets orbiting two suns, Kepler-47 is the only known multi-planet circumbinary system. Circumbinary planets are those that orbit two stars.
Planets - Kepler-47 - System - Transit - Method
The planets in the Kepler-47 system were detected via the "transit method." If the orbital plane of the planet is aligned edge-on as seen from Earth, the planet can pass in front of the host stars, leading to a measurable decrease in the observed brightness. The new planet, dubbed Kepler-47d, was not detected earlier due to weak transit signals.
As is common with circumbinary planets, the alignment of the orbital planes of the planets change with time. In this case, the middle planet's orbit has become more aligned, leading to a stronger transit signal. The transit depth went from undetectable at the beginning of the Kepler Mission to the deepest of the three planets over the span of just four years.
SDSU - Researchers - Size - Location - Planet
The SDSU researchers were surprised by both the size and location of the new planet. Kepler-47d is the largest of the three planets in the Kepler-47 system.
"We saw a hint of a third planet back in 2012, but with only one transit we needed more data to be sure," said SDSU astronomer Jerome Orosz, the paper's lead author. "With an additional transit, the planet's orbital period could be determined, and we were then able to uncover more transits that were hidden in the noise in the earlier data."
William - Welsh - SDSU - Astronomer - Study
William Welsh, SDSU astronomer and the study's co-author, said he and Orosz expected any additional...
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