A Moment of Science

Kepler’s Telescope Spots 2 Planets In Same Orbit. Should We Worry?

Kepler’s Telescope has detected over 1200 possible planets. But this discovery is unique. Scientists found two planets in the same orbit in a system!

telescope at the beach

Photo: Kristin Marshall (Flickr)

Don't be quick to worry. The planets should be safe for at least 2 million years!

Did you hear what the Kepler Telescope has spotted now?

KOI 730

Kepler’s Telescope has detected over 1200 possible planets. About a third of the planetary systems have more than one planet. But this new discovery is unique. Kepler’s Telescope found two planets in the same orbit in a system called KOI 730.

Wouldn’t the planets crash into each other at some point?

There are two points along a planet’s orbit where a second planet can orbit safely. They are located sixty degrees ahead of and sixty degrees behind the main planet; these positions are called Lagrange Points.

We actually have some asteroids along Jupiter’s orbit called Trojans that orbit safely in that way.

So What If One Of The Planets Slows Down?

They could end up like the Earth and moon.

Scientists know that our moon formed about fifty million years after the solar system’s birth. They believe that the Earth once shared an orbit with another planet about the size of Mars that they call Theia.

Computer simulations suggest that if Theia approached from a Lagrange Point, a collision with Earth could have formed the moon.

So, the same thing could happen with the KOI 730 planets? Scientists did some calculations and they think those two planets will be safe for the next 2.22 million years at least.

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