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A Pair of Planets Around a Pair of Stars
Most of the planets we know about orbit a single star; however, most of the stars in our galaxy are not single. Based on data from the Kepler space telescope, Orosz et al. (p. 1511, published online 28 August) report the detection of a pair of planets orbiting a pair of stars. These two planets are the smallest of the known transiting circumbinary planets and have the shortest and longest orbital periods. The outer planet resides in the habitable zone—the “goldilocks” region where the temperatures could allow liquid water to exist. This discovery establishes that, despite the chaotic environment around a close binary star, a system of planets can form and persist.
We report the detection of Kepler-47, a system consisting of two planets orbiting around an eclipsing pair of stars. The inner and outer planets have radii 3.0 and 4.6 times that of Earth, respectively. The binary star consists of a Sun-like star and a companion roughly one-third its size, orbiting each other every 7.45 days. With an orbital period of 49.5 days, 18 transits of the inner planet have been observed, allowing a detailed characterization of its orbit and those of the stars. The outer planet’s orbital period is 303.2 days, and although the planet is not Earth-like, it resides within the classical “habitable zone,” where liquid water could exist on an Earth-like planet. With its two known planets, Kepler-47 establishes that close binary stars can host complete planetary systems.