Scientists Discover Largest Ever 'Tatooine' Star Wars Planet

It took five years.

14/06/2016 09:58

Astronomers have discovered the largest planet ever to orbit a double-star system.

Named Kepler 1647b, the new discovery has a mass and radius similar to Jupiter, making it the biggest transiting circumbinary planet ever found.

Lynette Cook/San Diego State University

Planets that orbit two stars, often known as ‘Tatooine’ planets first got their nickname in the Star Wars films when Luke Skywalker witnessed a twin sunset when he returned to his home world.

Scientists at San Diego State University made their findings using the Kepler Space telescope and presented them to the American Astronomical Society this week.

The news, which will also be published in the Astrophysical Journal, comes after a transit was first noticed in the Kepler solar system back in 2011 by co-author Laurance Doyle.


Lynette Cook

But it has taken five years to confirm his suspicions.


SDSU astronomer William Welsh told Science Daily: "Finding circumbinary planets is much harder than finding planets around single stars."

“It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm, it is easier to find big planets than smaller ones.”

But the team of researchers believe it was the planet’s long orbital period – it takes 1,106 days (just over 3 years) to orbit it’s host stars - that made it so tricky to locate.

The planet is 3,700 light years away and around the same age as the earth at 4.4 billion years old. 

Kepler 1647b is a gas giant, also similar to Jupiter, meaning that it is unlikely to host life although if the planet is found to have large moons, these could be potentially suitable.

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