Friday, September 16, 2011

Scientists Discover Tatooine

The New York Times has reported that NASA scientists have discovered a planet that, similar to Skywalkers’ home planet of Tatooine, orbits two suns simultaneously, making it the first planet definitively discovered to do so.

“Sometimes the orange sun rises first. Sometimes it is the red one, although they are never far apart in the sky and you can see them moving around each other, casting double shadows across the firmament and periodically crossing right in front of each other.”

The scientists who discovered the planet have even taken to calling it Tatooine:

“The official name of the new planet is Kepler 16b, but astronomers are already referring to it informally as Tatooine, after the home planet of Luke and Anakin Skywalker in the George Lucas ‘Star Wars’ movies, which also had two suns.
‘Reality has finally caught up with science fiction,’ said Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institution, a member of the research team.”

Outside of being incredibly cool, this revelation also brings into question the reliability of the most prominent theories as to how planets are formed.

“People don’t really know how to form this planet.”
It was long thought, Dr. Seager said, that for its orbit to be stable, a planet belonging to two stars at once would have to be at least seven times as far from the stars as the stars were from each other. According to that, Kepler 16b would have to be twice as far out as it is to survive.
“This planet broke the rule,” she said.

And before you ask, no Tatooine is unfortunately not a desert planet. In fact, it’s quite the contrary, with Dr. Doyle describing the weather on the planet as similar to “a nippy day in Antarctica at best.”

Via The New York Times

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