Astronomy Magazine

Planet with Two Suns Discovered; Researchers Nickname It “Tatooine”

Posted on the 16 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Planet with two suns discovered; researchers nickname it “Tatooine”

The two suns in Star Wars, on the planet Tatooine. Now has fiction become reality?

A case of life imitating art on a grand scale – cosmic, even – has occurred. Much have we travelled in the realms of gold, indeed, but now a new planet has swept into our ken: Using Nasa’s Kepler probe, researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science have discovered a planet that orbits two suns – what is known as a “circumbinary” planet. It bears the unexciting name of Kepler-16b, (technically it’s Kepler-16(AB)-b) and is a freezing cold gas giant with a surface temperature of minus 73 to minus 101 degrees Centigrade. It’s about the same size as Saturn, and has an orbit of 229 days. We won’t be able to visit it very soon, though – it’s 200 light years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus (although maybe the high-speed rail link might just do it.)

Alan Boss, one of the researchers, was quoted in The Times as saying that there would never be constant daylight because the suns are too close together: “cocktail hour would be quite hard.”

Science fiction fans will of course instantly recognise the planet Tatooine, which famously had a pair of suns in its sky. Although this one isn’t quite as rocky and liveable in as the home of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films. Scientists at the institute have been looking for planets that might harbour life. They do this by looking for periodic dimming in the light of stars, which suggests an object passing in front of it. In Kepler-16b’s case, the stars were eclipsing each other; and then a third eclipse suggested a planet.

“Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality,” Alan Boss, from the Carnegie Institution for Science was quoted in The Daily Mail.

  • You’ll need sunscreen. “What I want to know is whether there are people living in desert igloos there. And what sort of sunscreen is required,” asked David on Toroz
  • Is it all a plot? “We approve, but we can’t help but think this is a giant marketing campaign for the new Star Wars Blu-ray release. We’ll know when nude pics of the planet show up online,” said Movie News After Dark, a column on Filmschoolrejects.
  • Yay! A larger labour force. On Twitter, DrVonBraun rejoiced ”Discovered: A binary star system with a planet like Tatooine. Awesome. The Jawas will make excellent assistants on my future #NASA rockets.”

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog


By Chelsi
posted on 09 October at 04:47
Report spam/abuse

Your articles are for when it absolutely, positively, needs to be unesdrtood overnight.