Study Shows How Planets with Binary Stars, Like Tatooine, Form

Study Shows How Planets with Binary Stars, Like Tatooine, Form

Researchers at the University of Bristol used computer simulations to model how planets form in binary star systems, like the fictional Star Wars planet Tatooine.

The image of two suns high in the sky over Tatooine, baking the desert planet and home of Luke Skywalker, is a familiar one for Star Wars fans. Planets orbiting binary stars, called circumbinary planets, are not just fancies of science fiction. Real circumbinary planets exist, like Kepler-34(AB)b, a Saturn-sized gas giant discovered in 2012 by NASA's Kepler mission. Around a single star, planets form from the coalescing of gas, dust and rocks held in orbit by the star's gravity. In the case of a binary star system, the interacting gravity of the two stars is believed to make planet formation unlikely, due to destructive collisions. Research published this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters offers a possible explanation for circumbinary planets. Using computer simulations, a team of researchers at the University of Bristol has concluded that circumbinary planets form away from the binary stars, and then migrate into orbit.

Dr. Zoe Leinhardt, computational astrophysicist at Bristol's School of Physics, says, "Our simulations show that the circumbinary disk is a hostile environment even for large, gravitationally strong objects. Taking into account data on collisions as well as the physical growth rate of planets, we found that Kepler 34(AB)b would have struggled to grow where we find it now." Dr. Leinhardt and her colleagues used computer simulations to model the effects of gravity and physical collisions of planet-forming matter around binary stars. The models, based on Kepler-34(AB)b, led the researchers to conclude that the circumbinary planet did not form around the stars, and instead moved there later.

The lead author of the study, Stefan Lines, says, "Circumbinary planets have captured the imagination of many science-fiction writers and film-makers - our research shows just how remarkable such planets are. Understanding more about where they form will assist future exoplanet discovery missions in the hunt for earth-like planets in binary star systems." As much as it gets compared to Tattooine, it's unlikely that Kepler-34(AB)b is home to any moisture farmers, since the small gas giant has an estimated surface gravity almost one hundred times that of Earth.

Source: University of Bristol via Forbes.

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Of course evidence suggests that Tattooine was actually once much more hospitable but was pushed into a new orbit by...

Sorry, I'll shut up now

Mike Richards:
Of course evidence suggests that Tattooine was actually once much more hospitable but was pushed into a new orbit by...

Sorry, I'll shut up now

Wasn't Tattooine bombed so heavily that almost all of the plant life was killed off?

Was it ever specified that Tattooine was in a binary system, though?

Rather than one star being orbited by planets and another, smaller star, I mean. Like if Jupiter was a bit bigger and has fusion going on.

Astalano:

Mike Richards:
Of course evidence suggests that Tattooine was actually once much more hospitable but was pushed into a new orbit by...

Sorry, I'll shut up now

Wasn't Tattooine bombed so heavily that almost all of the plant life was killed off?

Actually I just went and looked it up, apparently it was glassed. I know I remember reading some wookieepedia article about a planet that was speculated to have been moved. I thought for sure it was Tattooine but I guess not

This is gonna bug me now

thaluikhain:
Was it ever specified that Tattooine was in a binary system, though?

Rather than one star bei
ng orbited by planets and another, smaller star, I mean. Like if Jupiter was a bit bigger and has fusion going on.

What you just described is a binary star system, unless I've misunderstood you?

KnowYourOnion:

thaluikhain:
Was it ever specified that Tattooine was in a binary system, though?

Rather than one star bei
ng orbited by planets and another, smaller star, I mean. Like if Jupiter was a bit bigger and has fusion going on.

What you just described is a binary star system, unless I've misunderstood you?

Traditionally, a binary system has the two stars in the middle "wobbling" about each other while the planets revolve around the center of mass between the two stars. The system described by thaluikhain would have a dwarf star orbiting around a much larger star as though it were a planet, with other planets revolving around the main star as well. Heck, the secondary star might have its own orbital system of "moons" as well.

And yet, all I can think of is the planet from Wrath of Khan that exploded, reducing Khan's world to a desert and stormy hellhole.

Actually Tatooine was originally a jungle world, and only became a sand-box after the Rakatan Infinite Empire glassed the planet.

Mike Richards:

Astalano:

Mike Richards:
Of course evidence suggests that Tattooine was actually once much more hospitable but was pushed into a new orbit by...

Sorry, I'll shut up now

Wasn't Tattooine bombed so heavily that almost all of the plant life was killed off?

Actually I just went and looked it up, apparently it was glassed. I know I remember reading some wookieepedia article about a planet that was speculated to have been moved. I thought for sure it was Tattooine but I guess not

This is gonna bug me now

I believe the planets you are thinking of are the ones in the Corellian system good sir.

thaluikhain:
Rather than one star being orbited by planets and another, smaller star, I mean. Like if Jupiter was a bit bigger and has fusion going on.

I think that would still be classified as a binary system.. I mean, in reality the two stars are never going to be exactly the same size and the smaller will thus "orbit" the larger to some degree.

Sirius A, for example, is about 2 solar masses, while Sirius B is just under 1, so A will have a stronger effect on B than vice versa.

I mean, technically all objects are exerting influence on each other mutually. The earth is causing the sun to wobble slightly as it orbits it, it's just that the mass of the earth is so small, the mass of the sun so large and the distance between them so great that it's not noticeable.

evilthecat:

thaluikhain:
Rather than one star being orbited by planets and another, smaller star, I mean. Like if Jupiter was a bit bigger and has fusion going on.

I think that would still be classified as a binary system.. I mean, in reality the two stars are never going to be exactly the same size and the smaller will thus "orbit" the larger to some degree.

Sirius A, for example, is about 2 solar masses, while Sirius B is just under 1, so A will have a stronger effect on B than vice versa.

I mean, technically all objects are exerting influence on each other mutually. The earth is causing the sun to wobble slightly as it orbits it, it's just that the mass of the earth is so small, the mass of the sun so large and the distance between them so great that it's not noticeable.

While that is true, I thought the definition of a binary star require the two to orbit a shared point that is not inside either of them.

 

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