The Kepler space telescope has found a new, fun discovery that promises years of great Star Wars jokes. Kepler-16b is a planet that represents a type of system we've never seen before—at least, in the real world. Two hundred light years away, this Saturn-size ball of rock and gas is orbiting two stars at once. Yes, just like Tatooine.
And while there are two stars involved in heating the planet, their light is pretty feeble. Even at its distance of a little over 100 million kilometers (65 million miles) from the pair — roughly the same distance at which Venus orbits the Sun — Kepler-16b is cold: the temperature at its cloud tops (assuming it’s a gas giant like Saturn) would be at best -70°C (-100°F).
So any visions you have of Luke Skywalker standing in the desert with his leg resting on a rock while he wistfully watches the two suns set in the west may have to wait. Even if the planet has a big moon (which these observations cannot yet detect) conditions there would be a bit chillier than on Tatooine. More like Hoth.
The video above is a stream of the Kepler 16b press conference. You can also find that video online at this link.
Nick Sousanis, who delivered his doctoral dissertation in comic book form, has a new comic in the current Nature magazine, explaining the last 25 years’ worth of climate talks, as a primer in advance of the Paris climate talks next week.
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