A team of Penn State University astronomers has obtained very precise measurements of a pair of stars that are orbited by a planet - like the binary system of the fictional planet Tatooine from the movie Star Wars. The orbits of the stars and planet in the system, named Kepler-16, are aligned so that they eclipse or transit each other when observed from Earth. The new measurements will aid astronomers in understanding how stars and planetary systems form. The data was obtained with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory and provides an important independent test of a new technique for measuring masses from Kepler spacecraft data.
A preprint of the paper is online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.0259. Funding for this research was provided by the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, and the National Science Foundation. [Source: NAI]