A new planet has been discovered by a team of amateur astronomers from the Planet Hunters project. It’s called PH1, but may remind some Star Wars fans of Tatooine thanks to the two suns it orbits. On top of that, the whole thing, with its two suns, is orbited by two other stars, making up a type of solar system that has not been discovered in the past.
Other than the two suns, it’s not much like Tatooine at all. It’s actually a gaseous planet, as opposed to Luke Skywalker’s home. Space.com reports:
The alien planet, called PH1, is a gas giant planet slightly bigger than Neptune. Its discovery in the midst of a strange, four-star planetary system is the first confirmed world discovered as part of the Yale University-led Planet Hunters project, in which armchair astronomers work with professional scientists to find evidence of new worlds in the bountiful data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
“Planet Hunters is a symbiotic project, pairing the discovery power of the people with follow-up by a team of astronomers,” said Debra Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale and planet expert who helped launch Planet Hunters in 2010, in a statement. “This unique system might have been entirely missed if not for the sharp eyes of the public.”
Until this discovery, there were a reported six known planets that orbit two stars, but none with this particular solar system set-up.
Here’s a CBS segment form 2011, with a NASA scientist talking about the planet Kepler-16b:
“This is the first definitive detection of a circumbinary planet, and is the best example we have of a Tatooine-like world from Star Wars,” a NASA scientist explains in the video. “Now, we don’t expect Luke Skywalker or anything else to be living on Kepler-16b, but if you could visit there, you would see a sky with two suns just like Luke did.”
Here’s a report from earlier this year about another Tatooine-like planet.