A newfound alien world is the biggest ever discovered that has two suns in its sky, like Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine in the “Star Wars” universe. Whereas the fictional Tatooine is a small and rocky world, however, the real-life Kepler-1647b is a gas giant about the size and mass of Jupiter. In addition to being the biggest known two-star planet, Kepler-1647b also has the widest orbit, circling its host stars in 1,107 Earth days, astronomers said. And the planet’s intriguing characteristics don’t stop there. Kepler-1647b also resides in its stars’ “habitable zone”, the range of distances at which liquid water could be stable on a world’s surface.
It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm, since it is easier to find big planets than small ones. But it is because its orbital period is so long.
Jerome Orosz, an astronomer at San Diego State University
Kepler-1647b is a gas giant, so it doesn’t have a surface — but any moons circling the huge planet could conceivably be capable of supporting life as we know it, study team members said. Kepler-1647b was discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which launched in March 2009 on a mission to determine how common Earth-like planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Kepler-1647b lies about 3,700 light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Cygnus. The planet’s two parent stars are about the same size as our Sun — one is a bit bigger, and the other is a bit smaller — and they are both about 4.4 billion years old.
It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm, since it is easier to find big planets than small ones.
astronomer William Welsh