While humanity, for its entire existence, has known of only one sun shining down upon it, our solar system, as has been repeatedly stated, is unique and finding this kind of real estate elsewhere in the universe may not be impossible, but it is surely difficult. Numerous discoveries over the past year have found that habitable planets do exist out there in deep space, positioned comfortable in the Goldilocks Zone from their respective suns, but there is nothing quite like our own solar system and possibly future generations will have to contend with environments and solar systems quite unlike our very own.
One such example, as seen by astronomers, is the existence of binary star systems or solar systems which have two suns. The idea may sound farfetched and even fantastical, but binary star systems do indeed exist and though first theorized to be unfavorable for the existence of Earth-like planets, a new study has proposed that there could very well be chance that habitable planets could exist in binary star systems.
According to a new study, conducted by astronomers using the Kepler space telescope, planetary systems could indeed develop and exist in binary star systems. The research, published in the journal, Science, documented the discovery of a binary system, which itself contains two planets, one of which exists in the Goldilocks or habitable zone from its sun, meaning that it is at a distance that makes it conducive to life, being neither too close to be too hot or too far to be too cold.
The binary star system in question is known as Kepler-47, located in the Cygnus constellation, around 5,000 light years from earth. The dual stars orbit one another and complete a full orbit every 7.5 days, with one star being similar to our own, while the other is one third its size, but 175 times fainter. Within the star system, the two planets, Kepler-47b and Kepler-47c, make complete orbits every 49 and 303 days respectively and the planets themselves are of varying size, with the inner planet, Kepler-47b, being three times the diameter of the Earth and the outer planet, Kepler-47c, being a little larger than Uranus.
It is Kepler-47c, the outer planet, which has been identified as being in the Goldilocks Zone. However, it appears to be a gaseous plant, making it unfit for habitation. According to scientists, it proves that circumbinary planets do indeed exist.
Professor Joshua Carter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics explains, "Kepler-47 shows us that typical planetary architectures, with multiple planets in co-planar orbits, can form around two stars. We've learned that circumbinary planets can be like the planets in our own Solar System, but with two suns."