Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Planet of the Single Sun

"Double Sunsets May be Common, But Twin-Star Setups Still Mysterious "
Space.com (January 18, 2010)

"The Earth may orbit around a single star, but most stars like our sun are binaries — two stars orbiting each other as a pair. In fact there are many three-star triple systems, even going up perhaps as high as seven-star — or septuplet — systems.

"Although astronomers once thought these systems might not easily support planets, worlds with multiple sunsets might actually prove common.

"And now, powerful telescopes are beginning to resolve these systems to reveal how they work...."

The rest of the article gives a sort of snapshot of where cosmologists and astrophysicists are at, trying to figure out how stars and planets form - and coming up with models that match what's actually observed.

As for whether or not a double star can have a planet orbiting it: that's not something to speculate about any more.

So far, "...scientists have detected a planet estimated at 1.76 times as massive as Jupiter orbiting the primary star of the Gamma Cephei binary system roughly 45 light years away. When the stars in binary systems are close together, planets have been spotted in orbits that take them around both — such is the case with PSR B1620-26 b, which orbits a pulsar and white dwarf located roughly 12,400 light-years away and is the oldest known alien planet at roughly 12.7 billion years old...."

As for finding a place like Star Wars' Tatooine, a planet with life orbiting a double star, that'll take longer. We may decide it's easier to make one. Which, as I say so often, is another topic.

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