Friday, September 16, 2011

Two suns beats two moons

Recently, a team of astronomers using Kepler, NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, has found a planet that orbits TWO suns. The planet, called Kepler 16-B, is only 200 light years away, in the Cygnus constellation. About the size of Saturn, and of similar density, it is thought to be composed of rock and gas, and is not believed habitable. Most odd to us, an observer on the planet would see two sunrises and two sunsets every day, one orange and one red, and double shadows when both were in the sky.

Ana Darcy Méndez's home planet, Thomo, would also provide an odd astronomical phenomenon to us, but not as odd as a sky with two suns. Thomo has two moons. The larger one, only a little larger in the sky than our moon, does make shadows, but the smaller one is one quarter that size. Its shadows are barely perceptible even on a dark night. Thomo is only 25 light years from Earth, however. If the Thomans' solar system had two suns, Earth astronomers would have found it long ago, and perhaps even found Thomo!

Ana loves our moon, to be sure, but she also misses her meshi and meshijn ("moon" and "baby moon," in Luvit).


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