Space & Astronomy
Planets like Tatooine may actually be common
By T.K. Randall
March 16, 2020 · 2 comments
Planets in binary star systems may not be that rare. Image Credit: NASA
Planets with two suns like Luke Skywalker's homeworld may be as common as planets orbiting a solitary star.
One of the most memorable scenes from the original Star Wars saw a young Luke Skywalker silhouetted against the twin sunsets of his home planet to the sound of John Williams' timeless score.
Although planets with two suns have traditionally been considered quite unusual, recent findings have cast doubt on this perception and suggest instead that such worlds may actually be quite common.
There are two main ways that a planet can form and remain in a stable orbit in a binary system.
In one scenario, the two stars are far away from one another, enabling a planet to safely orbit one star without the other interfering. Instead, it would simply appear as a particularly bright star in the sky.
In the other scenario, the two stars would be so close together that they effectively act as a single object, meaning that the planet could orbit them both as though they were a single star.
While exoplanet hunters have mostly dismissed binary stars in the search for extrasolar worlds, data from Europe's Gaia spacecraft has recently opened the door to a number of intriguing examples.
The overall findings, surprisingly enough, suggest that planets are just as common in binary systems as they are in single star systems and this is especially true when the stars are far apart.
Tatooine, it seems - far from being an invention of science-fiction - could actually exist after all.
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