Star Wars fan? You need to check out this astronomical discovery mirroring a scene from George Lucas’s Star Wars.
Scientists have discovered a planet reminiscent of Tatooine, the iconic twin-sunned home of the saga’s hero, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.
Detailed in the journal Nature Astronomy on Tuesday, this is only the second instance of a multi-planetary system with a binary star at its core.
The unique planetary systems, referred to as circumbinary systems, feature planets revolving around two stars simultaneously, unlike our own Solar System which has a single star at its heart.
If life were possible on such planets, the landscape would mirror the memorable scene from the first Star Wars film where Skywalker ponders his future under Tatooine’s dual sunlit horizon.
Named Bebop-1c, this intriguing new find is the product of the Bebop project, an acronym for Binaries Escorted By Orbiting Planets. The only previous discovery of a dual-starred, multiplanetary system was Kepler-47, which was identified in 2012.
Prior to that, the existence of such systems was considered impossible due to the presumed gravitational chaos leading to interplanetary collisions or ejections from orbit.
Gateway to further discoveries
The recent Bebop revelation includes the identification of two planets so far, with the possibility of uncovering more in subsequent studies.
Bebop-1c, the newly found “Tatooine” alike, has a 215-day orbital period around its dual suns and a mass 65 times that of Earth, which is five times smaller than Jupiter.
Scientists, including those from the University of Birmingham, UK, believe that circumbinary systems are crucial in advancing our comprehension of planetary formation.
“Planets are born in a disc of matter surrounding a young star, where mass progressively gathers into planets,” study co-author Lalitha Sairam said in a statement to the Independent UK.
These systems make it simpler to locate and understand conditions favourable for planet formation due to the binary stars’ effect on the surrounding disc.
“In the case of circumbinary geometries, the disc surrounds both stars. As both stars orbit one another, they act like a giant paddle that disturbs the disc close to them and prevents planet formation except for in regions that are quiet and far away from the binary,” Dr. Sairam explained.
Remarkably, scientists have noted that the inner planet in this new system possesses a density lower than a Victoria Sponge cake.
While the exact size of Bebop-1c remains known, scientists could still determine its mass and could place a strict upper limit on the inner planet, the Independent explained.
This unexpected characteristic makes this planet an ideal candidate for more intensive future studies, particularly utilising the James Webb Space Telescope.