In the journey to finding more habitable Earth-like planets, NASA’s Kepler satellite has discovered yet another gem. That’s right, researchers at the University of Washington and Harvard University have discovered a supersized Earth “locked in an orbital tug-of-war with a much larger, Neptune-sized planet as they orbit very close to each other around the same star about 1,200 light years from Earth.” Continue reading for a video and more information.
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.
The larger planet was originally spotted in data from NASA’s Kepler satellite, which uses an instrument called a photometer to measure light from distant celestial objects and can detect a planet when it transits, or passes in front of, and briefly reduces the light coming from, its parent star.