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Beyond Earthly Skies

Having Two Suns Makes Little Difference

7 Jun 2016, 22:00 UTC
Having Two Suns Makes Little Difference
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Circumbinary planets are planets that orbit two host stars. As a result, they experience a time-varying irradiation pattern. Circumbinary planets appear to be relatively common. It has been predicted that planets larger than 6 times the radius of Earth occur for at least 10 percent of circumbinary systems. A number of circumbinary planets have already been detected and most of them are around the size of Neptune. Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a circumbinary planet.May & Rauscher (2016) present a study of the atmospheric effects of the time-varying irradiation pattern on known and hypothetical gaseous Neptune-like circumbinary planets. In the study, the parameter η defines the difference in temperature for the circumbinary case as compared to the single-star case. The results from the study show that for circumbinary planets on stable orbits around their host stars, η does not exceed 1 percent even for the most extreme cases.For example, Kepler-47b is a Neptune-sized planet in a 49.5 day orbit around a pair of stars. For Kepler-47b, η is only 0.2 percent. This means that the maximum temperature deviation from the single-star model is only 6 K. Basically, such temperature differences are not large enough to induce discernable changes in the ...

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