EdgarKeymasterFebruary 2, 2014 at 10:47 amPost count: 148
A new study has discovered how a circumbinary planet forms and grows to orbit around two different stars.
According to a University of Bristol press release, the researchers said Kepler 34(AB)b would have formed far from where it is currently located. The planet likely formed under strong gravitational force from both stars that packed down the rocky surface materials.
The study also explains how Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” universe, would have orbited two stars. Kepler 34(AB)b and Tatooine would have formed far from their current location and then migrated toward their host stars.
“Our simulations show that the circumbinary disk is a hostile environment even for large, gravitationally strong objects,” study co-author Zoe Leinhardt, of Bristol’s School of Physics, said in the release. “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.”
The study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, relied on data from NASA’s Kepler Telescope.
Based on the researchers’ findings, all known circumbinary planets would have had to form far from their host stars. Study lead author Stefan Lines and his colleagues made computer simulation models to replicate the early stages of the planets’ formation.
The model calculates gravity’s effects and weighs it with the physical collisions that cause millions of rocky planetary building pieces to come together. The only exception to this model thus far is Kepler 47(AB)c, which may not have traveled very far from its formation location, since it orbits at a great distance.
“Circumbinary planets have captured the imagination of many science-fiction writers and film-makers – our research shows just how remarkable such planets are,” Lines said in the release. “Understanding more about where they form will assist future exoplanet discovery missions in the hunt for earth-like planets in binary star systems.”
No official word on whether or not information like this was available to George Lucas.
(The author of this article changed a reference to Tatooine orbiting two moons, to two stars.)
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