To date, the telescope on the Kepler spacecraft has detected 1,235 planet candidates, and while Earth-bound telescopes are trying to determine if 54 of those planets may have conditions that could harbor life, one unique planetary system may have been uncovered.
Unique because it's the first time scientists have discovered what may be two planets sharing the same orbit of their home sun, New Scientist reports.Since planets are so far away and smaller than their host stars, Kepler is only able to "see" the potential planets by measuring any decreases in the brightness of stars, which would be caused by planets passing in front of them.
If this dual-orbiting planet hypothesis gets confirmed, researchers suggest it would lend credence to a theory that our moon was created when a planet-sized object, sharing a similar orbit to Earth's eons ago, possibly crashed into our home world.
"Systems like this are not common, as this is the only one we have seen," said Jack Lissauer, a space scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
The double-planetary system, dubbed KOI-730, is described in greater detail by Lissauer and his colleagues in the Astrophysical Journal.
via Kepler Spacecraft Finds 2 Planets Sharing Same Orbit.