In our galaxy, but far, far away:  A planet orbiting two stars at once.

If that sounds familiar, than you are a “Star Wars” fan:  Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s desert homeworld in the first Star Wars movie (episode IV).


“This discovery provides confirmation of a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life. Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means that the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars  This milestone discovery confirms a theory that scientists have had for decades but could not be proven until now.”

If you could stand on the planet, Kepler 16b, you would see a “dynamic range of sunsets,” according to Laurance Doyle, a participating scientist on the Kepler team and lead author at the SETI Institute. Scroll down for video of the miraculous planet.

“Sometimes the red star would set first, other times the orange star would, sometimes they’d set at the same time,” Doyle continued at a NASA briefing on Thursday at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “To tell the time using a sundial you’d need calculus.”

-Kepler principal investigator William Borucki, NASA


NASA Discovers ‘Tatooine’
TPM, September 15, 2011

Category: Science, Weekend

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

2 Responses to “NASA Discovers ‘Tatooine’-Like Planet Orbiting Two Stars”

  1. jrltexas1 says:

    Barry…I love a lot of your posts, but what in the world is the point of this? I have seen this story over and over today and everyone just seems to think that NASA really did discover anything of particular note. There are lots of double stars, there are from what we are learning now, lots of planets outside our solar system. What there is not, at least as far as the 1400 + examples of exo-planets yes discovered show, the least hint of a planet supporting anything like life as we know it, or life at all for that matter. This planet is nothing like Tatooine. Tatooine does not exist. But using the name Tatooine continues the myth that any of the exo-planets yet discovered have even the remotest possibility of harboring even the most simple forms of life. The physical forces exerted on a planet in a binary system make any life impossible, period. There is no ‘habitable zone’ in these systems. NASA is just trying to justify its programs by making people think there are worlds like Tatooine out there with lots of fuzzy little happy hobbits, and wouldn’t it just be soooo nice to find them. But using words to conjure up images of things as they are not, is not something new to TBP. After all you recently graced us with “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What is Really True” Really? Reality is ‘magic’? So it is magic that tells us what is ‘really’ ‘true’? Come on….

  2. formerlawyer says:

    @jrltexas1 Says:

    “But using the name Tatooine continues the myth that any of the exo-planets yet discovered have even the remotest possibility of harboring even the most simple forms of life. The physical forces exerted on a planet in a binary system make any life impossible, period. There is no ‘habitable zone’ in these systems. ”

    To the contrary,

    “It is estimated that 50–60% of binary stars are capable of supporting habitable terrestrial planets within stable orbital ranges.[68]”
    From Wikipedia:

    There are 3,030 papers on Google Scholar (search term: habitable zones binary systems) addressing that issue alone. Some samples follow:

    “… Based on the distributions of orbital elements of a bias-corrected sample of nearby G-dwarfs, we find that ≈ 60% of solar-type binaries cannot be excluded from having a habitable planet solely on the basis of the perturbative effect of the secondary star. ”

    From: Daniel P Whitmire, John J Matese, Lee Criswell, Seppo Mikkola, Habitable Planet Formation in Binary Star Systems, Icarus, Volume 132, Issue 1, March 1998, Pages 196-203, ISSN 0019-1035, 10.1006/icar.1998.5900.

    see also:
    Habitable zones around main sequence stars, JF Kasting, DP Whitmire… – ICARUS-NEW YORK-, 1993 –

    Binary systems can be categorized in many ways, the above is an example of an S-type, other particular binary systems may not be so accommodating however, see:

    Nader Haghighipour *, Dynamical Stability and Habitability of the Cephei Binary-Planetary System ,The Astrophysical Journal, 644:543-550, 2006 June 10
    *Institute for Astronomy and NASA Astrobiology Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822;

    From the Abstract:
    “It has been suggested that the long-lived residual radial velocity variations observed in the precision radial velocity measurements of the primary of γ Cephei (HR 8974, HD 222404, HIP 116727) are likely due to a Jupiter-like planet orbiting this star. In this paper, the dynamics of this planet is studied, and the possibility of the existence of a terrestrial planet around its central star is discussed. Simulations, which have been carried out for different values of the eccentricity and semimajor axis of the binary, as well as the orbital inclination of its Jupiter-like planet, expand on previous studies of this system and indicate that, for the values of the binary eccentricity smaller than 0.5, and for all values of the orbital inclination of the Jupiter-like planet ranging from 0° to 40°, the orbit of this planet is stable. For larger values of the binary eccentricity, the system becomes gradually unstable. Integrations also indicate that, within this range of orbital parameters, a terrestrial planet, such as an Earth-like object, can have a long-term stable orbit only at distances of 0.3-0.8 AU from the primary star. The habitable zone of the primary, at a range of approximately 3.05-3.7 AU, is, however, unstable.”

    *Did you note the NASA affiliation?

    Further, even close binary stars may have planets within the habitable zone whose orbits could remain stable and within the habitable zone for life for the duration of the system:
    M. Barbieri, F. Marzari, and H. Scholl , “Formation of terrestrial planets in close binary systems: the case of α Centauri A, Astron.Astrophys. 396 (2002) 219-224.

    This was as a result of an enjoyable hour on googlescholar. I learned more than I knew by reading Barry’s Blog. If you don’t like an article – don’t read it. For the rest of us as some noted elsewhere. Barry please don’t stop putting up interesting articles.