Tatooine planet Kepler-16b orbits two suns

NASA's Kepler telescope has discovered a planet that orbits two suns, just like Luke Skywalker's homeworld of Tatooine.

Incredible news for Star Wars fans today -- NASA's Kepler telescope has discovered a planet that orbits two suns, just like Luke Skywalker's desert homeworld of Tatooine.

The planet doesn't have such a catchy name though, it's called Kepler-16b, and rather than playing host to a cave-dwelling Obi-Wan Kenobi, it's an uninhabitable cold gas giant, the BBC reports.

200 light years away from Earth and nestled in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler-16b is known as a circumbinary planet. The two suns that it orbits are also circling each other, and are 69 percent and 20 percent of the mass of our sun.

Two suns might sound ideal for topping up your tan, or chilling on the porch of your moisture farm with a cup of ice cold blue milk, but in fact NASA says Kepler-16b is an "inhospitable, cold world about the size of Saturn", with a surface temperature of between -73 to -101C. More like Hoth, then.

It takes 229 days for the planet to complete its orbit of the two suns, and scientists say that at the end of each day there's a dual-sunset that you can look meaningfully into while John Williams conducts the London Symphony Orchestra softly in the background.

The telescope that spotted Kepler-16b is designed to find planets by monitoring stars whose light becomes less bright as planets pass in front of them.

For a more detailed explanation of Kepler-16b, check out NASA's video below. Whether we'll ever get to explore the planet however is as big a mystery as why Aunt Beru is rocking a crazy 70s collar when everyone else on Tatooine is dressed in robes.

Are you psyched about this discovery? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: NASA

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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