Scientists Discover a ‘Star Wars’ Like Planet

September 16, 2011

Scientists Discover a ‘Star Wars’ Like Planet

A team astronomers from NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission have announced the discovery of a planet that orbits two suns, a scenario that breaks so many galactic rules that it was thought by many to exist only in science fiction. The planet called Kepler-16b, is much like the fictional planet Tatooine, of Star Wars fame, it is a circumbinary planet – a planet that orbits two parent stars – as opposed to the Earth and its sole star, the Sun.

It is approximately 200 light years from Earth and is believed to be a frozen world of rock and gas, about the size of Saturn. Temperatures on its surface can reach a chilly -99.4F (-73C) to  -149.8F(101C). It orbits the two stars which also circle each other, one about two-thirds the size of our sun, the other about a fifth the size of our sun. Each orbit takes 229 days  at a distance of 65 million miles; the stars eclipse each other every three weeks or so.

“This discovery confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life,” Kepler principal investigator William Borucki said. “Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars.

NASA’s Kepler  spacecraft is equipped with a space observatory. Its mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets. Kepler was launched on March 6, 2009. Its planned mission lifetime  is 3.5 years or more.



Publisher: Salient News

2 comments on “Scientists Discover a ‘Star Wars’ Like Planet”

‘Tatooine’ Alien Planets Should Be Common, Scientists Say – | Daily News Magazine

[…] say. At a press conference yesterday (Sept. 15), researchers using NASA's Kepler …Scientists Discover a 'Star Wars' Like PlanetSalient NewsHere's how you can spot the twin suns of Tatooine-like planet Kepler-16bio9A Tale of […]


Wait, isn’t that sorta like just having a large planet that is big enough to be a “star”? I mean, what if Jupiter were big enough (and made of the right material) to burn. Wouldn’t Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune then be planets circling two stars that eclipse each other, as in this discovery?

Comments are closed.