The world first met the imaginary, sand-ravaged desert planet Tatooine in 1977, when it debuted in the very first Star Wars film. This strange fictional world was home to Luke Skywalker and others. To the whole bizarre nature of this dry sandy planet was added that it was not one sun, but two!
Astronomers once believed that such near-Earth solar systems, in which worlds orbit two stars, might not be able to form in the real universe because they are too unstable – although there were seductive signs that they might exist. But now astronomers know that worlds like Tatooine actually live in our Milky Way galaxy.
Indeed, astronomers are beginning to understand that the formation of planets is common. In 1977, no one saw worlds orbiting stars outside our Sun. The first so-called extrasolar planet was not discovered until 1995, but now the number of such worlds known to astronomers, oddly enough, far exceeds the eight known large planets of our own solar system. Some scientists have even calculated that there are more planets than stars in our Milky Way! Extrasolar planets exist in huge numbers and with great variety – some of them very familiar worlds, resembling ghost planets in our solar system. But others are different from what astronomers thought.
Finding planets around other stars has been difficult, and their final discovery may represent one of mankind’s greatest triumphs. The discovery of a planet the size of Jupiter orbiting a distant star in our Milky Way is similar to observing light reflecting from a dust particle of about 1,000-watt light bulbs when the observer is several miles away. Even the so-called “close” stars are very far away, and in visible light the planet glows only in reflection. Indeed, the distance even to the closest star behind our Sun is almost unimaginable. The closest star to our Sun is actually a triple star system, Alpha Centauri, and is located about four light-years from Earth, or about 24 trillion kilometers away.
Astronomers have long been looking for planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun. Dutch astronomer, physicist and mathematician Christian Guygens (1629-1695) undertook the first known search for planets outside the Sun in the 17th century. Unfortunately, the following centuries were marred by false alarms and disappointment. Only in 1988 – eleven years after the release of the first Star Wars film – appeared the first true clues to the unraveling of triumph. For example, Walker and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Canada reported cautious signs of invisible planetary mass objects orbiting several nearby stars. However, these findings were reported extremely cautiously, with reservations that orbital planets were just one of many possible interpretations of the data.
In 1989, Dr. David W. Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and four of his colleagues announced clear evidence of what a planet orbiting a dark star could be. Under the mild name HD 114762 But since the planet Latham was richly endowed with a mass more than 10 times the mass of Jupiter, astronomers were inclined to view this object as a normal low-mass star or an interesting small turn of a subcellular object called brown. Dwarf. Brown dwarfs are probably born as normal stars, but because they are much less massive, their thermonuclear furnaces never light up.
Theorists generally agree that it is not difficult for planets to form around a star like the Sun. When a closed node in a cold dark interstellar molecular cloud collapses to form a new star, it usually leaves a disk of dust orbiting this so-called protostar. These particles easily stick together, creating ever larger objects that eventually become planets on their own.
Systems like Tatooine, in which planets orbit two stars that turn against each other, have long been considered too unstable to exist. Indeed, complex gymnastics between all the bodies in such a system would lead to a lot of collisions. In addition, many organs will be completely excluded from the informal system. It is very difficult for astronomers to collect data on circulating systems. Although they have seen many solar systems outside of ours, few have more than one star. Mathematical modeling wasn’t particularly useful either.
Despite these great difficulties, the existence of a real planet similar to Tatooine was first confirmed in 2011. Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have discovered a giant planet orbiting a pair of double stars that make up the Kepler-16 system. which is about 200 light-years from Earth. The popular Kepler Space Telescope is aimed at a field in our Milky Way, home to about 4.5 million stars, and its main goal is to discover extrasolar terrestrial analogues. Kepler searches for planets using the transit method. This means that it looks for voids in the brightness of the star when planets orbit them during transit events. Kepler has the ability to detect tiny changes in the brightness of a star. This orbital observatory was launched in March 2009 aboard the Delta 2 rocket.
The Tatooine-like planet, called Kepler-16 (AB) b, passes in front of the faces of its two stars and regularly reduces their light. In addition, each of the two stars hides his sister, rotating around each other. Taken together, these gymnastics allow astronomers to calculate the radii, orbits and mass of three bodies.
The distance between the planet and its stars is almost three-quarters of the distance between our planet and the Sun. It is about the same size as Saturn, although almost 50% denser. This suggests that the newly discovered planet is endowed with heavier elements. Saturn is the lightest planet in our solar system, and it could float on water – if so much water was available.