ScienceShot: Double-Star System Hosts Ancient World

If 16 Cygni's solar system harbors aliens, they may be older and wiser than we are. Located 69 light-years from Earth and barely visible to the naked eye, 16 Cygni boasts two yellow stars like our sun, plus a dim red dwarf. The two suns are much farther apart than Pluto is from us, so each has room for planets. Indeed, in the 1990s astronomers discovered the planet shown here; it's more massive than Jupiter and orbits the fainter yellow sun. Now, new observations from NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which looks for planets that pass in front of their stars and dim their light, have detected oscillations in both of 16 Cygni's suns. The data indicate that the stars are 6.8 billion years old—about 2 billion years older than our sun. The researchers say the new findings, submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, demonstrate Kepler's superb ability to probe the hearts of other stars.

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