Tatooine? No, it’s Kepler-16b, illustrated in this artist concept. The existence of a world with a double sunset, as portrayed in the film Star Wars more than 30 years ago, is now scientific fact. Our Kepler mission has made the first unambiguous detection of a circumbinary planet — a planet orbiting two stars — 200 light-years from Earth.
Unlike Star Wars’ Tatooine, the planet is cold, gaseous and not thought to harbor life, but its discovery demonstrates the diversity of planets in our galaxy. Previous research has hinted at the existence of circumbinary planets, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Kepler detected such a planet by observing transits, where the brightness of a parent star dims from the planet crossing in front of it.
Image Credit: NASA
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