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Beyond Earthly Skies

Occurrence Rates of Circumbinary Planets

24 Apr 2014, 10:00 UTC
Occurrence Rates of Circumbinary Planets
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Figure 1: Artist’s impression of circumbinary planets. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.Circumbinary planets are a subset of planets that orbit two stars instead of one. In recent years, precise photometric data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope has lead to the detection of several circumbinary planets. Kepler is a planet detection telescope that measures tiny dips in a star’s brightness when a planet happens to transit in front of the star. Using publicly available Kepler data, Armstrong et al. (2014) present the first ever estimations for the rate of occurrence of circumbinary planets. The study examines binary stars with orbital periods < 60 days, and planets > 4 Earth-radius with orbital periods < 300 days.The rate of occurrence of circumbinary planets largely depend on the inclination distribution of their orbits with respect to the orbits of their host binaries. Results from the study show that if circumbinary planets have orbits that are preferentially coplanar with their host binaries, their rate of occurrence will be ~10 percent. Instead, if the orbits of circumbinary planets have an isotropic distribution, their rate of occurrence increases dramatically to at least ~50 percent. This is expected because in the isotropic distribution case, many more circumbinary planets must ...

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