Astronomers Explain Tatooine-like Planet Formation

Astronomers Explain Tatooine-like Planet Formation

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Exoplanets orbiting binary stars are real, but they keep their distance.

While it's not quite as fanciful as something like Doctor Who, Star Wars is hardly a source of verifiable, implementable scientific ideas. Sure, hyperspace may be physically feasible and some of the aliens are more believable than others, but cinematic abstractions like the Force are mostly just there for show. This is not the case with Tatooine's iconic twin sunset, which is a phenomenon that actually happens. Until now, researchers have puzzled over the idea of planets orbiting two suns. How did they form under such intense gravitational pull? A new theory suggests that the very gas clouds that birth these bodies are responsible for keeping them far away from the twin stars that would tear them apart.

At present, scientists are aware of at least three exoplanets (planets outside of our own solar system) that orbit binary stars: Kepler 16b, 34b and 35b. That these planets exist at all is somewhat remarkable, given the enormous gravitational pressure that two stars would exert. It seems impossible that stellar debris could amalgamate into planetary bodies with two stars pulling at it, but as is often the case in the far reaches of the universe, physics finds a way. Scientists theorize that planets in binary star systems form very far away from the stars in gas clouds, and the natural viscosity of the gas keeps planetary fragments together until they become self-sustaining spheres. This phenomenon is known as "gas drag."

Over the course of millions of years, these planets edge closer and closer to the binary stars, then form stable orbits. In fact, Kepler 16b stabilized about as close to a binary star system as scientists believe is possible. It rests just at the edge of the habitable zone, a term coined by astronomers to describe the most likely distance from a solar system's star (or stars) to support life. While this life would have to be able to withstand daily temperatures of approximately -70°C on a theoretical rocky moon, it's entirely possible that someone, somewhere is watching twin suns rise right now, just like Luke Skywalker did.

While this theory is by no means the last word on exoplanet formation in binary star systems, it contains a solid hypothesis that merits further testing. All we need is a space program capable of transporting some brave researchers a mere 200 light-years away. Sure, it may be nothing more than a cold ball of dirt, but it may also be home to an idealistic young farm boy with a laser sword, and that always ends well.

Source: Technology Review

Image: Wikipedia

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I knew Star Wars was real!

Still better than the Spice mine of Kessel.

Marshall Honorof:
While this theory is by no means the last word on exoplanet formation in binary star systems, it contains a solid hypothesis that merits further testing. All we need is a space program capable of transporting some brave researchers a mere 200 light-years away. Sure, it may be nothing more than a cold ball of dirt, but it may also be home to an idealistic young farm boy with a laser sword, and that always ends well.

Of course, it could also be home to an ancient humanoid alien species that developed another alien species of unknown nature, and then died under mysterious circumstances, leaving only their strange alien samples behind. That tends to end not so well.

Best science article I've seen on the site. Please, more like this.

I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

Bah, Tatooine. What we really need to discover is Arrakis!

McMullen:
I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

What about if earth had rings? I think it's rather beautiful and what would that do to the arts...

hmm because of the distance the light would take sometime to travel to earth.

which means this solar system existes a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Enormous gravitational pressure? The force is strong with this one.

Quaxar:
Bah, Tatooine. What we really need to discover is Arrakis!

McMullen:
I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

What about if earth had rings? I think it's rather beautiful and what would that do to the arts...

with all the space waste we might have one of these in the next decades.

or like someone suggested we might get one if the climate changes faster:
Earth Rings for Planetary Environment Control
http://www.star-tech-inc.com/papers/earth_rings/earth_rings.pdf

and we might had some of them 'early' on:
http://articles.cnn.com/2002-09-19/tech/earth.rings_1_ring-earth-big-chill?_s=PM:TECH

Alternative:
hmm because of the distance the light would take sometime to travel to earth.

which means this solar system exists a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

technically it's still in our galaxy. you could say in a a long time ago in a solar system far far away.

Dont tell Lucas.

That's cool, but what about Planet Namek?

Evil Smurf:
I knew Star Wars was real!

Yes...but sadly that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. It's all over now. Maybe we'll get there some day and find the fossilized remains of Darth Vader.

Quaxar:
Bah, Tatooine. What we really need to discover is Arrakis!

McMullen:
I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

What about if earth had rings? I think it's rather beautiful and what would that do to the arts...

Man! I was a pretty smart kid... I remember drawing a frictional planet that had rings. It looked similar to a couple of those pictures.

In terms of how it would effect technology though... rings would certainly cut down on the effectiveness of satellites a significant amount (If any could be put up at all)... and it would more frequently bombard us with rocks.

McMullen:
I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

It could potential be an advantage... I mean... more moons could cause significant meteorological changes that could hamper our abilities to develop... and a second sun could do worse than that.

Maybe I just missed this, but do they orbit in an 8 shape or in an oval around the two stars?

Waitasec: "...hyperspace may be physically feasible..."

do tell....I think you mean "theoretically possible" instead of "physically feasible" and even then I think that's a bit of a reach. Last I checked there's no theory that supports anything even remotely like Star Wars-style hyperspace. Not even close. Not even feasible, let alone theoretically possible.

The rest of the article was cool, though.

McMullen:
Best science article I've seen on the site. Please, more like this.

I've always wondered how multiple moons or suns would influence the scientific development of cultures that grow up seeing them. Our single moon and sun put us at a disadvantage.

How so?

Then again, you may be on to something, we call our solar system the SOL system for a reason

Shit
Outta
Luck

camazotz:
Waitasec: "...hyperspace may be physically feasible..."

do tell....I think you mean "theoretically possible" instead of "physically feasible" and even then I think that's a bit of a reach.

"Physically feasible" in that, as far as I know, it doesn't violate any of Einstein's principles. To the best of my knowledge, hyperspace is travel through spacetime beyond the traditional four dimensions. If that's the case, then the universal speed limit (~186,000 mi/s) need not apply. As far as actually propelling an object into hyperspace, that's another problem entirely.

Apologies if I'm off on that. To be honest, I know a lot more about how warp speed in Star Trek works, but the two systems aren't that similar.

 

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