NASA researchers have detected a planet orbiting two stars.
Until now, such a planet existed only in the world of the science fiction films such as Star Wars with the planet Tatooine, the home planet of Luke and Anakin Skywalker, covered with arid deserts and populated by a few native species.
However, the newly-discovered exoplanet is cold and astronomers exclude the possibility that life exists.
“Reality has finally caught up with science fiction,” said Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institution, a member of the research team.
Called Kepler 16-b, the exoplanet is a giant planet with a size and mass similar to those of Saturn. The two stars around which the planet orbits have different colors and sizes, changing their position every 41 days. A year on this planet is 229 days.
An observer on the planet would see the bigger star as being orange and the smaller one as being red. Every sunset is different: sometimes the red star sets first, followed by the orange one, and sometimes it’s the other way round. In addition, an observer on this planet could see two eclipses monthly.
NASA’s $600 million Kepler telescope is dedicated to observing more than 155,000 stars for at least three years and a half in the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. Its mission is to search for planets like the Earth that could support life in our galaxy, the Milky Way.