Can Binary Star Systems Harbor Habitable Planets?


The Big Picture

As you probably learned last week, there’s a newly discovered planet in the solar neighborhood. Even cooler, the planet (Alpha Centauri Bb) is an Earth-mass planet orbiting a star in a binary (possibly triple) star system. Alpha Centauri Bb orbits the star Alpha Centauri B once every 3.2 days, so the planet’s surface is likely molten. Even though Alpha Centauri Bb is far too hot to support life, the exciting discovery of an Earth-mass planet in a nearby multiple star system raises the question of whether habitable Earth-mass planets could also exist in binary star systems.

In this paper, Eggl et al. delve into that question in detail by calculating the habitable zones around stars in the 19 nearest binary systems and determining whether orbits within the habitable zone would be stable. They find that Earth-size planets could exist on stable orbits in 17 of the 19 systems considered. That impressive success rate (89%) implies that real Earth-mass habitable planets in binary star systems might be almost as common as planets orbiting binary stars are in science fiction!

Read more: Can Binary Star Systems Harbor Habitable Planets? | astrobites.

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