Tatooine-Like Planet Kepler-47, Orbiting Two Suns, Discovered

For the first time astronomers have discovered a Tatooine-like planet, Kepler-47, that orbits two suns, SPACE reported. It seems similar to Luke Skywalker's twin-suns-solar-system from "Star Wars."

"Star Wars" fans around the world are most likely overjoyed, for the force is with them.

The planet's peculiar character was determined by its "multiple transits" across its suns. 

"In contrast to a single planet orbiting a single star, the planet in a circumbinary system must transit a 'moving target.' As a consequence, time intervals between the transits and their durations can vary substantially, sometimes short, other times long," said Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University and lead author of the paper.

"The intervals were the telltale sign these planets are in circumbinary orbits."

NASA announced Tuesday that Kepler-47 was found 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The agency said: "This discovery proves that more than one planet can form and persist in the stressful realm of a binary star and demonstrates the diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy.

"Astronomers detected two planets in the Kepler-47 system, a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other every 7.5 days from our vantage point on Earth. One star is similar to the sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is diminutive, measuring only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright."

SPACE noted that since NASA's orbiting Kepler space telescope has been in use, astronomers have found more than 2,300 possible alien worlds, and definitely 700 planets that are beyond our solar system.

"Unlike our sun, many stars are part of multiple-star systems where two or more stars orbit one another. The question always has been -- do they have planets and planetary systems? This Kepler discovery proves that they do," said William Borucki, Kepler mission principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

"In our search for habitable planets, we have found more opportunities for life to exist."

Share this article

More News from IBT MEDIA