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Astronomers Find Planetary "Odd Couple," Prove That Opposites Attract

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06/22/2012 05:18 PM
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Astronomers Find Planetary "Odd Couple," Prove That Opposites Attract
NASA's Kepler space telescope finds all sorts of fascinating planets located many light years from Earth, from potentially habitable planets to those orbiting two suns. However, its newest discovery has to be the most interesting: a pair of planets that orbit extremely close together.

The discovery came via researchers at the University of Washington (Seattle) and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, who studied data from the telescope using a specialized algorithm. The planetary best buddies, which are 1200 light years from Earth, travel around their star along slightly different orbits--the inner planet, named Kepler-36b, completes its orbit in 13.6 days, while the outer planet Kepler-36c does so every 16.2 days.

Although the two planets are relatively close to each other (astronomically speaking), their orbits lie 1.2 million miles apart, so there's no danger of the two colliding anytime soon. According to NASA, the narrowest gap between the orbits of any two planets in our solar system is about 20 times greater than that of Kepler-36b and 36c.

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