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Friday, September 16, 2011

Kepler-16b: extraordinary discovery of planet with two suns - 16th Sept 2011

It is one of the most memorable images from Star Wars, Luke Skywalker gazing into the distance while walking on Tatooine, a planet with two suns.

And more than three decades after the movies came out the real life version has been discovered - a freezing cold planet named Kepler-16b, which is about the size of Saturn and 200 light years away.

American researchers using observations from NASA's Kepler spacecraft detected the distant planet, which is treated to a double sunset every evening.

'This discovery is stunning,' Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Terrestrial Magnetism said.

'Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality.'

Binary stars -- two suns turning around each other -- have been seen before, and astronomers have suspected planets exist around them, but Kepler's observations are the first to confirm it. Read More