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Star Wars-like planet discovered

A giant and frigid planet that enjoys double sunsets as it circles two stars has been spotted in the northern skies.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2011 00:07 IST
Ian Sample

A giant and frigid planet that enjoys double sunsets as it circles two stars has been spotted in the northern skies.

Astronomers said the planet, named Kepler-16b, marked the first unambiguous discovery of a world in orbit around two stars - made famous by the planet Tatooine in Star Wars.

The planet, which lies about 200 light years from Earth and has a similar mass to Saturn, was observed by Nasa's Kepler spacecraft.

The unusual arrangement means that an observer on the planet's surface, where temperatures range from -70C to -100C, would see two small suns rise and set together, and on occasion appear as one as they passed in front of each other.

Models of planetary formation have shown it is possible for worlds to form around twin stars, but astronomers have only set eyes on them in science fiction.