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Outside the reach of the Galactic Empire…

Tatooine exists! From Universe Today by Paul Scott Anderson:

For exoplanet fans, this week has been an exciting one, with some amazing new discoveries being announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas – our galaxy is brimming with planets, probably billions, and the smallest known planets have been found (again), with one about the size of Mars. But that’s not all; it was also announced that Kepler has found not one but two more planets orbiting binary stars!

The two star systems are Kepler-34 and Kepler-35; they consist of double stars which orbit each other and are about 4,900 and 5,400 light-years from Earth. The two new planets, Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b, each orbit one of these pairs of stars and are both about the size of Saturn. Since they orbit fairly close to their stars, they are not in the habitable zones; Kepler 34-b completes an orbit in 289 days and Kepler-35b in 131 days. It’s more the fact that they orbit double stars that makes them so interesting.

This is now the third planet found in a binary star system. The first, Kepler-16b, was nicknamed Tatooine as it was reminiscent of the world orbiting two suns in the Star Wars films. Until recently, it was unknown if any such star systems had planetary companions. It was considered possible, although unlikely, and remained only a theory. But now, the view is that there may indeed be a lot of them out there, just as planets are now apparently common around single stars. That’s good news for planet-hunters, as most stars in our galaxy are binaries.

Read the complete article here or read the manuscript published in Nature.

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