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Earth-Like ‘Tatooine’ Planets With Two Suns Could Host Life

First Posted: Apr 13, 2017 06:47 AM EDT
Can Two-Star Systems Like Tatooine’s Exist?
Would the Earth be habitable if it had two suns? Astronomers have suggested that Earth-like ‘Tatooine’ planets could support life.
(Photo : DNews/YouTube screenshot)

The universe has planets that orbit two suns, just like the home planet of Star Wars’ character Luke SKywalker -- a world known as Tatooine. In fact, a planet that orbits three suns has also been discovered in the universe. Such planets have been thought to be uninhabitable gas giants. Now a recent study suggests that Earth-sized planets with a double star system can support life if they exist at the right distance from the twin suns.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Tatooine worlds do not have to be dry with desert-like conditions. In fact, they could retain and even be covered in water for a long duration. "This means that double-star systems of the type studied here are excellent candidates to host habitable planets, despite the large variations in the amount of starlight hypothetical planets in such a system would receive," study researcher Max Popp said in a statement.

Popp and NASA’s Siegfried Eggl created a model for a water-covered, Earth-sized planet in the Kepler-35 binary system. The exoplanet system with two stars has a giant planet that the scientists substituted with the Earth-sized, water-covered planet. Subsequently, the two researchers ran the model to study what the climate would be like on the imaginary Earth-like planet as it orbited around the twin host stars.

On the basis of the study, the research team found that if the imaginary planet was on the edge of the exoplanet system’s habitable zone, then it would be subject to extreme temperature swings during the course of one orbit. However, if the planet were to orbit closer to the two suns in the system, then its weather would remain more stable.

Incidentally, the climate model also showed that a water-covered planet orbiting two suns would have less cloud coverage. This implies that watching the double sunsets would be a fantastic experience due to better visibility.

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