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back to article Scientists discover Tatooine-style world 200 lightyears off

Scientists have discovered a planet that orbits two suns, like Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine in Star Wars. Two hundred light-years away from Earth, gaseous Kepler-16b is similar to Saturn in both size and mass and – like the desert planet that nurtured the young Skywalker – enjoys a double sunset. Double sunset on …

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WTF?

Wow hmm its good timing really isnt it :D....

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Boffin

Close, but no cigar

If the stars are 21 million miles apart, and their diameters are, charitably, 0.5 million miles, then they are about 42 diameters apart. In the picture the Tatooine stars are less than 5 diameters apart.

For comparison, the Moon is 125 lunar diameters, or about 31 Earth diameters away from us.

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Anonymous Coward

They will only *appear* 42 diameters apart when your observation point is perpendicular to their (insert boffin term here). When they eclipse they will by necessitiy appear with less than 1 diameter separation.

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Boffin Term

Plane of motion is an appropriately boffiny term that comes to mind.

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Charitably?

Given that our sun's diameter is about 870,000 miles, I really don't see how 0.5 million is a charitable guess. I'd say err on the side of caution (i.e. to downplay your results) and go for 1m each, at which point they're only 21 diameters apart.

Bear in mind also, as others have noted, that unless you're viewing them from a perpendicular direction, they will appear to be closer than this (hence eclipses being possible).

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Silver badge
FAIL

Unless, of course...

... the two suns aren't precisely the same size and the same distance from the planet.

Losing your son to ego is unfortunate, but getting dropped in it yourself due to having not even a basic understanding of perspective is just downright embarrassing. And slapping a boffin icon on it makes it worse.

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Joke

Father Ted's description of cows

"In the picture the Tatooine stars are less than 5 diameters apart."

... only assuming they are the same size. If the orange one is a gas giant (and therefore a lot bigger) then it could be a lot further away from the other star.

I'm reminded of the Father Ted's description of the difference between the small toy plastic cows and the real cows far away. ;)

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FAIL

This is not the Tattooine you were looking for

So, it's not a hot desert planet. It's a cold gas giant. Not quite Tattooine then really is it?

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NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo......

[as Darth Vader didn't used to say]

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Paris Hilton

Pizza the Hutt!

"settled by humans and giant Hutts"

I always thought "the Hutt" was meant to indicate a fat-ass thug of notoriety / baron of crime, possibly well-connected with local imperial law enforcement, not a separate species. But I haven't read Encyclopedia Starwarsica.

Now, about physics: how does the planet manage to keep stable orbit in a two-sun system if it's not Solaris? I know that there are unknown phenomena and even in things as simple as an inverse square law - is this one of them?

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Silver badge

Binary orbits

There are two regions of stability, one is close to either start (so the 2nd star just makes modest wobbles) and the other is far, far away where both stars' gravity appears as one primary pull to the planet. In between the trajectory is chaotic.

In both cases the orbit is 'stable', but nothing like the mildly perturbed ellipses that our planets enjoy.

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The latter

The stars orbit eachother at about .2AU, the planet is out at .7AU. Page 11 gives a diagram, 13 has numbers: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1109/1109.3432.pdf

It should be noted that they predict that the orbits will change over time - they mention that the planet will stop eclipsing the stars at some point in the future, before returning to eclipse again after a couple of decades.

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Anonymous Coward

Encyclopedia Starwarsica?

It's called Wookieepedia.

Hutts are a species that are predisposed to organised crime.

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re: Binary orbit

Either it orbits, or it doesn't.

IGMC. When I get my scarf, I'll have 10 wraps.

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Coat

Everyone remembers Tattooine...

... but who remembers Helliconia?

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Freyr and Batalix?

I do. Aldiss' finest works, without a doubt.

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Happy

It was my first thought...

...but Aldiss' finest work? The first one yes. The other two were very average.

For me his finest works are The Dark Light Years and Non-Stop. That is, of course, until he writes something better.

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Silver badge

"Aldiss' finest works, without a doubt."

Possibly. Still bloody awful, though. First SF book I ever threw out.

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Good point, I should have added a 'IMO' there. DLY is a cracking read, agreed.

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Silver badge

It was long ago though.

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Coat

and in a galaxy far far away.

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Boffin

Bad news for the Fermi Paradox....

Planets orbiting a binary, eh? That just made the Fermi Paradox an even bigger problem; the result of the Drake Equation just got bigger.

Where is everybody? Staying the hell away from Earth, that's for sure. I guess they are fearful of the nasty viruses we have here - religion, new agers, economists.

I see your Heliconia and raise you a Tiamat , by the way.

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Right

Cause we can safely assume that aliens, by virtue of being alien, have no disease, religion or economy.

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Alien

It's because we play cricket

Just that

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Boffin

Assumptions

Both the Fermi paradox and the Drake equation are based on complete guesses/assumptions for values we simply don't know, so neither should be taken as realistically representing the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

They are just guesswork based on wild assumptions. The question can't be answered because we don't have enough evidence.

We don't even know how life starts or how likely the process is to occur, so to attempt to guess its likelihood of existing elsewhere is either pretty futile or pretty arrogant.

I know it isn't popular to point it out, but *wanting* to believe it's out there is not science; it's more like religion.

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Silver badge

Re:"We don't even know how life starts"

Um, sorry to disagree, but I recall reading an article in a science mag about how some boffins simulated the theoretical conditions of early Earth, what with atmosphere, pressure and heat, and came away with proof that amino acids resulted from the steam bath.

Knowing that amino acids are the building blocks of life, it is easy to conclude that the conditions for creating life are not so difficult to achieve.

On the other hand, the conditions for survival are much harder, with any number of elements able to radically or catastrophically change the environment to the extent where the fledgling hold that life had crumbles away - until a new batch has a chance to start.

Even then, it is apparently required to be in a relatively stable galatic environment - in a star nursury life has little to no hope of gaining a long-term hold, what with all the thermonuclear ignitions and subsequent violent space winds and cosmic rays that are an everyday condition in those areas.

So, even if we don't have proof, we do have a pretty good idea of how life can start and maintain itself, along with a rather good understanding of how easy the process is. What we don't know, of course, is how often it has actually happened, in what timescale and just how far along it has gone in each case.

Now, think of this : with what we know about the availability of the building blocks of life, combined with what we are learning about the frequency of planetary systems in the star systems around us, well I think it is quite possible that life is positively teeming in every galaxy in the Universe. Of course, most of that life is probably some form of microbial slime, but still, it's a beginning.

And by the time our governments get their act together to finally get humans into space, added to the time it will most probably take us to get there, well let's just say that the slime will have had ample time to evolve into an entirely new something that will really surprise us (right before biting our heads off) !

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Anonymous Coward

fermi-paradox, drake-equation

... are just a waste of time..

But Brin gets the method right:: http://www.brin-l.com/downloads/silence.pdf

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FAIL

@Pascal Monett

"it is easy to conclude that the conditions for creating life are not so difficult to achieve."

There you go,easily jumping to conclusions. Did these scientists actually succeed in creating life? No! Yet you assume that it must be easy even though they didn't manage it.

Try looking up "scientific method", instead of blindly hoping that you're not alone.

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42 the answer is

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re: Fermi

I believe he also came up with the plan for measuring the Emperor of China's nose:

http://imaginatorium.org/stuff/nose.htm

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FAIL

Wrong galaxy... move along

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Note

Notice they did NOT find Alderaan

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Anonymous Coward

And rightly so!

The Empire FTW!

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There were rather a lot of pebbles just a few systems over, roughly where it used to be...

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2010

Apart from Tatooine and Heliconia, 2010: The Odyssey Continues also shows planets in a binary system (after Jupiter is turned into a miniature star). Also "The World of Two Suns" in Elfquest and, to go further back, The King in Yellow from 1895:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink beneath the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Some may recognize some of the lines from the Toyah song "The Packt". :-)

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What's with the fahrenheit, are we in 1923 or something?

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Facepalm

I CHOOSE to enoble a simple forum post!

This report is by our colonial cousins.... they still use imperial weights and measures

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Silver badge

10 weeks

At jump-6. Not bad.

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Stop

Astro-names

I'm not an astro guy or physicist, but I don't get where they come up with names for newly discovered planetary bodies (Yes I've heard of Kepler) but please; "Kepler-16b" What happened to 16a. Was that the Beta version? And were/are there 15 others?

Slightly off topic but it seems to be the same for when they discover a new animal or insect - they name it after the "Latin" for ... whatever. Why not invent a new english word. Jellyfish comes to mind - a sensible description - but not floppytae subterae.

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The 'b' in this case _may_ stand for binary - as in it's in a binary system but that's just a guess.

----

Slightly off topic but it seems to be the same for when they discover a new animal or insect - they name it after the "Latin"

----

I've often wondered that - though it's just as often Greek; hippopotamus for example, roughly translated as "Horse of the water" - whereas the Germans just call it Nilpferd "Nile Horse" using, well, the German word for horse (of course).

Ditto on Schildkröte (Shield "Frog" - very approximate translation as there's no differentiation between frogs and toads in German) - we'd call it a tortoise :)

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Ru
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Boffin

Its a perfectly cromulent naming scheme.

The parent star system is called Kepler 16, which is the 16th extrasolar planetary system discovered using the Kepler telescope. Looking at past results, they never name any of their discovered exoplanets 'a'. No idea why.

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Go

Indeed. The naming convention for multiple stars in a system is name_of_star A, name_of_star B etc and any planets are named name_of_star b, name_of_star_c etc. I'm not sure why, unless 'a' refers to the star that the planet is in orbit around, or perhaps even the system's barycentre if it's a multiple star system.

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Alien

Apart from 2010, Helliconia and Tatooine ...

I think we can add the following to the list:

Magrathea (although Marvin thought the double sunset was "rubbish")

But, for those with even longer memories, "Nightfall" (Isaac Asimov)

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Happy

Fond memories, both of Magrathea and Nightfall. Well done sir!

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So, you say you have found memories eh?

That is what you say is it?

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It's not a planet it's a battlestar

Prepare to be conquered by amazon-like women with biological LTE transceivers.

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Not even a stable desert environment

If it is Tatooine, it would not be a stable desert supporting Jawas, Sand People, and the city of Mos Eisley, that wretched hive of scum and villainy.

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Holmes

This is wonderful!

You do not understand, they actually found Tattooine!

This is a good as when Columbus discovered India!

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FAIL

Wot?

No womp rats?

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