"Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality," said Carnegie Institution astronomer Alan Boss, a member of the team for NASA's Kepler mission and a co-author of a paper on the discovery in the journal Science.
Luke probably couldn't stand on the surface of Kepler-16b, which orbits a red and orange star 200 light-years from Earth, and it certainly wouldn't be a desert. The planet is most like Saturn in our own solar system ó too cold for life as we know it, most likely with a thick, gassy atmosphere. "This one's just outside the habitable zone," the paper's lead author, SETI Institute astronomer Laurance Doyle, told me.
But if Han Solo were to park the Millennium Falcon on one of Kepler-16b's hypothetical moons, there'd be plenty of double-sunsets. In fact, because the two suns orbit each other, each sunset would bring a different configuration, with the small red sun occasionally crossing over the larger orange one. "You might get two eclipses every 41 days," Doyle said.
"The minute we knew it was a circumbinary planet, I emailed a colleague and said, 'We should ask George Lucas if we can nickname it Tatooine.'
The point is that science fiction can become science fact. We donít just have to escape. The real universe is out there and even more amazing than we can imagine. It's good to check with nature and reality I think."