Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2016 February 20
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Where Your Shadow Has Company
Poster Illustration Credit: NASA, JPL, Exoplanet Travel Bureau

Explanation: Want to take a relaxing interstellar vacation? Consider visiting Kepler-16b, a world in a binary star system. In fact Kepler-16b is the first discovered circumbinary planet. It was detected in a wide 229 day orbit around a close pair of cool, low-mass stars some 200 light-years away. The parent stars eclipse one another in their orbits, observed as a periodic dimming of starlight. But Kepler-16b itself was discovered by following the additional very slight dimming produced during its transits. Like sci-fi planet Tatooine of Star Wars fame, two suns would set over its horizon. Still, Kepler-16b is probably not a Tatooine-like terrestrial desert world. Instead, Kepler-16b is thought to be a cold, uninhabitable planet with about the mass of Saturn and a gaseous surface ... so plan to dress accordingly. Or, choose another Visions of the Future vacation destination.

Tomorrow's picture: galaxy debris

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
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