Meet the largest Star Wars Tatooine-like planet orbiting two suns

Kepler-1647b doesn't sport Tatooine's desert climate or a bunch of Jedi, but it does proudly orbit two suns.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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An artist's concept of Kepler-1647b and its secondary star transiting the primary star.

Lynette Cook

You knew you were in a galaxy far, far away as soon as you saw Tatooine's two suns. The fictional Star Wars desert planet is home to hero Luke Skywalker, but there are real planets out there that orbit two suns. They're known as circumbinary planets, and astronomers working with the Kepler Space Telescope just identified the largest one ever found.

The newly discovered planet is called Kepler-1647b, even though we would really love for it to be called Tatooine II. It can't been seen with the naked eye as it sits 3,700 light-years away in the direction of constellation Cygnus (swan).

Kepler-1647b is about as old as Earth. NASA describes its stars as being similar to our own sun, though one is a little bigger and the other a little smaller. Size-wise, it's about as big as Jupiter, making it quite the hulk when it comes to circumbinary planets.

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Star Wars fans will be especially heartened by this tidbit from NASA shared Monday: "Interestingly, its orbit puts the planet within the so-called habitable zone -- the range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet."

Then NASA dashes hopes by saying the planet is a gas giant and very unlikely to have any life. Then NASA raises hopes again by noting that it could potentially have large moons capable of hosting life.

A study on the planet was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. This isn't the first time Kepler has found a Tatooine-style planet. In 2011, astronomers unveiled Kepler-16b, an uninhabitable cold gas giant that's quite a bit smaller than Kepler-1647b. Since then, Kepler has tallied a number of the circumbinary planets, but the latest certainly stands out for its size.