Real-Life 'Star Wars' Planet Seen - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Real-Life 'Star Wars' Planet Seen

MSNBC.COM - Planet-hunters say they've detected the first world that's absolutely known to circle two stars, like Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine in the fictional "Star Wars" saga.

"Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality," said Carnegie Institution astronomer Alan Boss, a member of the team for NASA's Kepler mission and a co-author of a paper on the discovery in the journal Science.

To mark the occasion, NASA invited John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic, the special-effects company behind the "Star Wars" movies, to sit in on today's announcement. "When I was a kid, I didn't think it was going to be possible to make discoveries like this," Knoll told journalists.

Tatooine serves as the setting for the first movie in the series, released in 1977 and now subtitled "A New Hope." The saga's main character, Luke Skywalker, could watch a double-sunset as he toiled in the desert on his uncle's moisture farm, aided by his trusty robots C-3PO and R2-D2.

Luke probably couldn't stand on the surface of Kepler-16b, which orbits a red and an orange star in the constellation Cygnus, 200 light-years from Earth. It certainly wouldn't be a desert. The planet is most like Saturn in our own solar system — too cold for life as we know it, most likely with a thick, gassy atmosphere. "This one's just outside the habitable zone," the paper's lead author, SETI Institute astronomer Laurance Doyle, told me.

But if Han Solo were to park the Millennium Falcon on one of Kepler-16b's hypothetical moons, there'd be plenty of double-sunsets. In fact, because the two suns orbit each other, each sunset would bring a different configuration, with the small red sun occasionally crossing over the larger orange one. "You might get two eclipses every 41 days," Doyle said. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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