Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Tatooine' solar system could have habitable moon, say astronomers

A group of astrophysicists from The University of Texas at Arlington suggests a habitable Earth-like planet could exist in a distant solar system found by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope.

Kepler-16 has two stars, like Star Wars’ fictional Tatooine. Kepler-16 System made headlines in September when researchers discovered Kepler-16b, a cold, gaseous planet orbiting both stars.

The UT Arlington team, have concluded that an Earth-type planet could exist in the system’s ‘habitable zone’ – as a moon orbiting Kepler-16b.

To host life in that zone, a terrestrial planet orbiting the two stars would need to have high levels of greenhouse gases in its atmosphere such as carbon monoxide or methane, they said.

UT Arlington Department of Physics professor Zdzislaw Musielak said, ‘This is an assessment of the possibilities. We’re telling them where a planet has to be in the system to be habitable. We’re hoping they will look there.’ Read More