"It shows the gears of celestial mechanics turning and interlocking so vividly, you almost want to reach out and touch it," exoplanet scientist Marc Kuchner, with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told Discovery News.
"Kepler himself would have been dizzy with excitement," he added, referring to the telescope's namesake, Johannes Kepler, the 16th century scientist who deduced the laws of planetary motion.
ANALYSIS: The Rare Exoplanet with a Double Sunset
Both the Kepler-16 stars are smaller than the sun, so their planet lives largely outside the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on its surface. Water is believed to be an essential ingredient for life as we know it.
The planet is estimated to experience temperatures that plummet from -100 to -150 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 to -100 degrees Celsius).
Timing also played a role in the discovery, notes Doyle. Computer models show that in early 2018, the planetary transits across the larger star will disappear from Kepler' view until around 2042. The passages across the smaller star's face, already slipping from view, will vanish in May 2014, and won't be back for 35 years.