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News Release 12 of 218

February 4, 2014 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-12

Kepler Finds a Very Wobbly Planet

February 4, 2014: Imagine living on a planet with seasons so unpredictable you would hardly know what to wear: Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat! That's the situation on a weird world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The planet, designated Kepler-413b, is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. But what makes this planet very unusual is that it wobbles, or precesses, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top. The planet's orbit is tilted with respect to the plane of the binary star's orbit. Over an 11-year period, the planet's orbit too would appear to wobble as it circles around the star pair. All of this complex movement leads to rapid and erratic changes in seasons.

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Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, V. Kostov and P. McCullough (STScI and Johns Hopkins University), J. Carter (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), M. Deleuil and R. Diaz (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille), D. Fabrycky (University of Chicago), G. Hebrard (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris and Observatoire de Haute-Provence), T. Hinse (Armagh Observatory and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute), T. Mazeh (Tel Aviv University), J. Orosz (San Diego State University), Z. Tsvetanov (Johns Hopkins University), and W. Welsh (San Diego State University)