Kepler Mission Discovers Planet Like Star Wars Tatooine With 2 Suns

Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope captured details of a giant planet in orbit around the pair of binary stars that make up the Kepler-16 system, which is about 200 light-years away. It’s a real-life Tatooine. A spectacle made popular by the “Star Wars” saga,  a  planet  with  two  suns,  has  now  been  confirmed in space for the first time. Unlike Star Wars’ Tatooine, the planet is cold, gaseous and not thought to harbor life, but its discovery demonstrates the diversity of   planets in our galaxy. Previous research has hinted at the existence of circumbinary planets, worlds that orbit around two stars, but clear confirmation proved elusive.

Kepler detected such a planet, known as Kepler-16b, by observing transits, where the brightness of a parent star dims from the planet crossing in front of it. According to Kepler principal investigator William Borucki this discovery confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life. Kepler-16b is an inhospitable, cold world about the size of Saturn and thought to be made up of about half rock and half gas. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69 percent the mass of the sun and the other only 20 percent. Kepler-16b orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.