George Lucas was surely ahead of his time when he created a planet with two suns three decades ago, for one has now been found, NASA says.
The Kepler space telescope has discovered a planet about 200 light-years from Earth that is orbiting two stars -- what's called a circumbinary planet -- NASA revealed Thursday.
According to the space agency, previous research did hint at the existence of circumbinary planets, but clear confirmation remained mysterious until the Kepler mission’s latest discovery.
Called Kepler-16b after its discoverer space observatory, the newly found circumbinary planet is likened to the fictional inhabited planet called Tatooine, which was portrayed as having two sunsets in the Star Wars series.
However, Kepler-16b is not thought to harbor life like Tatooine, NASA said.
“This discovery confirms that 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.”
Kepler is searching for Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface.
The two stars which Kepler-16b orbits are said to be smaller and cooler than our sun.
“The stars are 20 and 69 percent as massive as the sun,” a research team, studying the planet, led by Laurance Doyle of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., said in their report published online in the Sept. 16 issue of journal Science.
Authors of the report said that Kepler-16b is comparable to Saturn in mass and size and orbits around both the stars in 229 days.