Binary Stars And Their 'Tatooine'-Style Planets May Be Perfect For Life, Research Suggests

14/06/2013 09:38 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 10:12 BST

Planets that orbit two suns at once are an image more familiar from Star Wars and science fiction, rather than science fact.

But according to new research, alien worlds with more than one sun might actually be a great place to go about finding life.

Work by Joni Clark, an undergraduate at New Mexico State University, suggests that the presence of an additional sun in a solar system might help reduce the damaging effects of solar winds and other particles, which can make the emergence of life difficult outside of a relatively small 'Goldilocks zone'.

The idea is that the two suns would "calm each other down", Clark says, acting as a gravitational sink for many of the most damaging particles being blasted out by their solar partner.

"They vent to each other, and they're not focused on anything else. They slow each other down and that causes increased magnetic protection of the planets," Clark told

Not every binary system would necessarily have an expanded Goldilcoks Zone. The stars would have to orbit each other roughly once every 10-30 Earth days and not be too far apart form each other.

But if the conditions are right, this configuration of stars and planets could allow Earth-like worlds to emerge as close to a sun as Venus is to our own.

Smaller planets that ours could also host life because they would not need to rely on their own strong magnetic shields as much as we do.

Scientists are currently expanding efforts to locate and describe exo-planets orbiting suns outside our Solar System. Finding them is difficult since they cannot be directly imaged by telescopes, but are instead found by instruments such as the Kepler Space Telescope observing variations in light reaching us from distant suns.

However several binary systems have been found to have rocky planets orbiting their suns already, and scientists expect that number to expand dramatically in the new few years.