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NASA Discovers Tatooine


Artist's illustration of Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NERD ALERT!
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, astronomers revealed.

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.

"This discovery is stunning," said study co-author Alan Boss at the Carnegie Institute in Washington. "Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality."

The planet, dubbed Kepler-16(AB)-b, passes in front of both stars in view of the satellite, regularly dimming their light. Each star also eclipses its companion as they orbit each other. Altogether, these motions allow scientists to precisely calculate the masses, radii and trajectories of all three bodies.
Unfortunately I don't think we're going to find Luke Skywalker sitting in the desert hanging out with R2D2 and C3PO. This planet is a lot more like Saturn than Mars.



It's truly amazing the realities that the space community is making of science-fiction lately. I mean with all those Super-Earths they've discovered recently. This is a very exciting time to be an astronomer.