WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) — A NASA spacecraft has discovered the first planetary system with more than one planet transiting, or crossing in front of, the same star, researchers say.
The Kepler spacecraft detected the transit signatures of two distinct planets in data gathered on the sun-like star designated Kepler-9, a NASA release said Thursday.
The planets have been named Kepler-9b and Kepler-9c.
The discovery came during seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system, NASA said.
The spacecraft’s ultra-precise camera measures tiny variations in the star’s brightness that occur when a planet moves in front of — or transits — it.
The size of the planet can be determined from these temporary dips in brightness.
“Kepler’s high quality data and round-the-clock coverage of transiting objects enable a whole host of unique measurements to be made of the parent stars and their planetary systems,” Doug Hudgins, a Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.