Business, Finance & Economics

Double-sun "Star Wars" planet discovered by NASA

Scientists have announced the discovery of a planet orbiting two suns — a real-life Tatooine, familiar to "Star Wars" fans as the home of characters Luke and Anakin Skywalker.

In fact, The New York Times reports, scientists have already begun referring to the planet, officially known as Kepler 16b, as Tatooine.

The planet was discovered with NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft, and the news was announced Thursday in a paper published online in the journal Science, at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and in a news conference at NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, California, according to the Times.

“Reality has finally caught up with science fiction,” Alan Boss, a member of the research team, said. 

John Knoll, who is a visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic, part of George Lucas's Lucasfilm, was invited to the news conference in California.

“Again and again we see that the science is stranger and weirder than fiction,” Knoll said. “The very existence of this discovery gives us cause to dream bigger.”

According to CBS News, the pair of stars that make up the Kepler-16 system are about 200 light-years away. "Tatooine" travels around the double-stars in a nearly circular 229-day orbit. It is roughly the size of Saturn, but 50 percent denser. Planets orbiting two stars have been hinted at before, but this is the first time scientists have been able to confirm one.

But the Stars Wars conventions may want to think twice before rushing off. The Times reports:

If you go, pack to wear layers. Because those suns move back and forth all the time, temperatures on the planet can change by 50 degrees or more over the course of a few Earth days, from minus 100 to minus 150 Fahrenheit. So the weather is like “a nippy day in Antarctica at best,” as Dr. Doyle put it.