Ecospheres Project

Kepler 16b & astrobiology

Ecospheres collaborator Laurance R. Doyle is a participating scientist on NASA's Kepler mission, and he led the team which discovered the planet Kepler 16b. A gas giant planet, some way outside the classic Habitable Zone, Kepler 16b was the first confirmed circum-binary planet (the central binary consists of main sequence stars of spectral class K and M). The discovery was announced at a NASA press conference on September 15, 2011, and it generated world wide publicity, despite pronouncements in the media from several astronomers that it was not a suitable object to sustain life. Immediately after the press conference, a discussion took place between L. R. Doyle and fellow Ecospheres collaborator M. J. Heath re-evaluating the status of the system to support biology. Given the possibility of sub-surface life on moons of giant planets, it is contended that Kepler 16b has secured itself a place as the first confirmed planet from the Kepler mission data set to be of potential interest to astrobiologists.

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