Tatooine IRL? Astronomers Discover Planet With Two Suns


Newly Discovered Exoplanet Kepler-1647 Is Largest ‘Tatooine Planet’ Ever Found

That stirring Binary Sunset in a galaxy far, far away isn’t so improbable after all. In fact, planets that orbit two stars have been known to exist for a while now, with the largest of them all having just been discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

Naturally, the planet has been named Kepler-1647—because scientists aren’t screenwriters, and only occasionally get creative when naming stuff.

Kepler-1647 is approximately 3,700 light-years away and around 4.4 billion years old. That’s roughly the same age as the Earth.

“It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm,” says astronomer Jerome Orosz, “since it is easier to find big planets than small ones. But it is because its orbital period is so long.”

How long? The planet takes a whopping 1,107 days – about three years – to complete orbit around its suns. That’s the longest orbital period of any confirmed transiting exoplanet astronomers have ever found.

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Chart comparing Kepler-1647 to other exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Telescope. Note the enormous size of Kepler-1647 compared to the other planets. (IMAGE COURTESY OF NASA.GOV)

Kepler-1647 is also unique in being much further away from its suns than any other circumbinary planet (or “Tatooine planet). Thus far, known Tatooine planets have had very close-in orbits.

Kepler 16-47 is also within the habitable zone for planets, meaning it could hypothetical support the conditions necessary for life.

 

“Finding circumbinary planets is much harder than finding planets around single stars,” said SDSU astronomer William Welsh. “The transits are not regularly spaced in time and they can vary in duration and even depth.”


Featured photo by ZacicVolkshed on Deviant Art.


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Timothy Bertrand
Writer and journalist living in the Houston, Texas area. Follow me for breaking news, editorials, pictures of cats doing human activities, and other such content from around the web.

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