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There Are Actually Millions of Tatooines In Our Galaxy

Illustration for article titled There Are Actually Millions of Tatooines In Our Galaxy

Astronomers have found two more new planets orbiting binary stars: Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b. Their discovery, which follow the original Tatooine discovery back in September 2011, is quite important: now we know there are millions of planets orbiting binary stars.

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According to University of Florida associate professor of astronomy of Eric B. Ford, these planets seem to be surprisingly common:

We have long believed these kinds of planets to be possible, but they have been very difficult to detect for various technical reasons. With the discoveries of Kepler-16b, 34b and 35b, the Kepler mission has shown that the galaxy abounds with millions of planets orbiting two stars.

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The team lead by William F. Welsh, associate professor at San Diego State University, found that Kepler-34b completes its orbit every 288 terrestrial days and is comparable to Jupiter in size, but less massive: 24 smaller but 78 percent less mass.

Kepler-35b is more massive than 34b, with 88 percent less mass than Jupiter. It's 26 percent smaller than our solar system gas giant. Both planets are made primarily of hydrogen and they are way too hot too sustain any kind of life.

Astronomers are also starting to think about the weather in these planets, according to Ford:

Circumbinary planets can have much more complex climates, since the distance between the planet and each star change significantly during each orbital period, the length of an alien planet's year. For Kepler-35b, the amount of incoming star light changes by over 50 percent within a single Earth year. For Kepler-34b, each Earth-year brings ‘summers' with 2.3 times as much star light as winters. Over the course of a year, the change in the amount of sunlight heating the Earth varies by only 6 percent.

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Summary: living in these planets—if you could—will not be the experience that your average Luke Skywalker-wannabe can imagine. [University of Florida]

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DISCUSSION

AssuntaPabsy
Betelgeuse...is a dracula

the more i think about exoplanets the more it seems obvious to me that there just has to be alien life somewhere. i mean, if life 'manifested' on Earth because all the conditions were right...how could we possibly think Earth is the only place in the universe where those conditions would exist? i think even the presupposition that we are alone in the universe is an example of fundamentally limited thinking. who knows if that life would be recognizable as 'intelligent' in any way that is meaningful to us...it could be so different as to be nearly unrecognizable to us as life as we understand it. for instance, nearly every imagined embodiment of alien life in scifi/popular culture could be classified as an animal by our standards. multicellular. maybe even vertibrate. who's to say alien life would have evolved in a multicellular fashion? or, would we be able to recognize an entire ocean as a life form if it was essentially a huge system of organelles in a cytoplasmic soup? that's basically what we are...with cell membranes thrown into the mix. even DNA isn't in any way necessary. DNA is like a hard drive to store information about making proteins, enzymes, etc from which all the other chemical components that comprise and animate us flow. what makes that 'alive'? life as we know it is more or less a huge chemical chain reaction reaching back to the dawn of life on this planet. chemicals - molecules - which happen to self-perpetuate, due to their physical structure, giving way to more molecules imperfectly, which leads to diversity. that imperfection, in the form of mutations, happens to be viewed as "good" by us because it is the process by which we are able to formulate an observation about it. an emergent phenomenon that generates us is deemed by us to be good. so given that we are more or less a chemical chain reaction, and a system for encoding molecular data...could life take the form of any kind of energy transfer (eg electromagnetic or thermal rather than chemical) that is self-perpetuating, encodes information in some way and passes that on via cycles in that energy transfer? maybe the information passed from one cycle to the next is imperfect, causing the system to evolve in a way similar to life as we know it. what if stars themselves are actually 'alive' in this more universal sense? seems possible to me.