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Astronomers find "wobbly" exoplanet in Kepler data
Posted: Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 6:18 AM ET (1118 GMT)
Astronomers announced this week the discovery of a planet orbiting a binary star system whose rotational axis precesses on human timescales. Researchers found the planet, Kepler-413b, after noticing an unusual pattern in data collected by NASA's Kepler spacecraft: the planet transited the stars three times in 180 days, then no transits were seen for 800 days before detecting another five transits. Astronomers believe the planet, a "super-Neptune" 65 times more massive than the Earth, has an orbit around the close binary star system that wobbles, and that the planet's rotational axis also wobbles, varying by 30 degrees in just 11 years. That precession of the planet's rotational axis would create wildly varying seasons on the planet, although the planet is too warm to be habitable.
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