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Kepler-36: A Pair of Planets with Neighboring Orbits and Dissimilar Densities

Science  21 Jun 2012:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1223269

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Abstract

In the solar system, the planets' compositions vary with orbital distance, with rocky planets in close orbits and lower-density gas giants in wider orbits. The detection of close-in giant planets around other stars was the first clue that this pattern is not universal and that planets' orbits can change substantially after their formation. Here, we report another violation of the orbit-composition pattern: two planets orbiting the same star with orbital distances differing by only 10% and densities differing by a factor of 8. One planet is likely a rocky “super-Earth,” whereas the other is more akin to Neptune. These planets are 30 times more closely spaced and have a larger density contrast than any adjacent pair of planets in the solar system.

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