Scientists discover a planet straight out of Star Wars

Any Star Wars fan has an image burned into their minds of a young windswept Mark Hamill wearing a gi, gazing longingly at two sunsets.

Back in the 1970s when the first film came out, scientists weren’t even sure if such a world existed. Today, astronomers know that while Luke Skywalker is space fantasy, worlds somewhat like his desert planet Tatooine are very real. Planet hunters don’t even have to look beyond our own galaxy — far, far away — to find them.

An international research team just discovered a planet circling a couple of stars in what’s known as a circumbinary solar system. The detection means another planet(opens in a new tab) found orbiting this duo three years ago by a high school intern at NASA has company.

“Only 12 circumbinary systems are known so far, and this is only the second that hosts more than one planet,” said David Martin, an astronomer at Ohio State University, in a statement.Martin was among the team that recently published the finding(opens in a new tab) in Nature Astronomy. Scientists didn’t dub it Tatooine but gave it an arguably rad name as far as new planet monikers(opens in a new tab) go. They’re calling it BEBOP-1C, a tribute to the project that collected the data. BEBOP happens to stand for Binaries Escorted By Orbiting Planets.

More than half of all stars in the sky have one or more companion stars. These solar systems can differ(opens in a new tab) widely. Some have large hot stars coupled with smaller cooler ones, or pairs in which one star cannibalizes the other. They don’t just come in duos: There are also systems in the Milky Way galaxy with clutches of up to seven stars. “Only 12 circumbinary systems are known so far, and this is only the second that hosts more than one planet.”The Tatooine-like planet’s year is 215 Earth days, and it’s 65 times heavier than our planet, according to the study. Despite its imposing mass, BEBOP-1C is still roughly 20 percent the weight of Jupiter. Its two stars orbit each other(opens in a new tab) every 15 days, according to NASA. One is about 10 percent more massive than the sun; the other is cooler, dimmer, and only one-third the mass of the sun.