Luke gazes at the setting…suns (Lucasfilm)
With all due respect to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn and their Force-wielding Jedi brethren, no one ever accused the Star Wars franchise of being scientifically accurate. Yet a recent discovery by NASA again proves that, at least in one regard, George Lucas’s sci-fi fantasy was rooted in out-there reality.
On June 13, NASA announced that, via the Kepler Space Telescope, it had identified a new planet, dubbed Kepler-1647b, that exists around a double-star system. In other words, this planet boasts two suns, just like Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine – whose name has come to be synonymous with such intergalactic worlds.
Located by a team of astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and San Diego State University in California, Kepler-1647b is the largest such “Tatooine planet” (and yes, that’s exactly how the official NASA report refers to it) known to mankind, and it can’t be spotted by the naked eye, given that it’s located 3,700 light-years away. The approximately 4.4 billion-years-old planet’s suns are similar in size to our own — one is slightly bigger, one a bit smaller. And it takes 1,107 days (i.e. just over three years) to orbit its stars, the longest such duration of any known Tatooine planet.
While it’s unlikely any human will ever visit Kepler-1647b — which in terms of mass, radius and gas composition most closely resembles Jupiter — its existence does suggest that Lucas’s far, far away space opera had at least some passing relation to our own universe. No word yet, however, on whether NASA has determined the exact whereabouts of the Rebel Alliance’s base.
You can read all the scientific details about Kepler-1647b here.
Watch a video about the Irish town that’s been taken over by the ‘Episode VIII’ shoot: