An announcement was made earlier this month in which to celebrate the first discovery of a two-star planetary system, called TOI-1338 b, encountered by NASA’s TESS mission. It’s estimated to be nearly 7 times bigger than Earth and orbits its two host stars every 95 days. One of these stars is much bigger and far brighter than the other and as the planet orbits around it stops some of the light from getting to the brighter star. And it’s this transit that enables astronomers to measure the planet’s size.   

The project was completed by a collaboration of researchers including some from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and San Diego State University (SDSU). It was then presented on behalf of the team by Veselin Kostov at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). NASA’s Kepler Mission ended in 2013, but while in operation, a dozen of similar planets were found. The orbiting TESS telescope is expected to get much better results as is covering nearly the whole sky. 

A new Kepler circumbinary planet called KOI-3152 b was also revealed at the AAS meeting in Honolulu. “We first noted convincing evidence for this planet in 2012, but confirmation required additional data and improvements in computer modeling,” said William Welsh, one of the SDSU astronomers. “In particular, star spots on the primary host star and a weak eclipse signal from the second star made the analysis difficult.” In 2019, Quentin Socia, one of Welsh’s master’s thesis students, went on to accept that challenge. In doing so he discovered something new – Planet KOI-3152 b. 

Planet KOI-3152 b is more than 1,300 light-years away, nearly 4 times the size of Earth, and it completes an orbit of its binary stars every 175 days. It’s a low-density gaseous planet that’s unable to support any kind of life that we know.  

While most discoveries made in the Universe are pretty amazing these findings are particularly exciting as they mark the beginning of a deeper understanding of the existence of such planetary systems.