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Rare exoplanet has 'Star Wars' twin sunset

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10/23/2010 07:28 PM
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Rare exoplanet has 'Star Wars' twin sunset
It's one of the most famous sci-fi scenes in cinematic history: Luke Skywalker standing in the desolate surroundings of his home watching the twin sunset on his homeworld of Tatooine in "Star Wars: A New Hope." Tatooine, a habitable world (or it was until the Rakata race plundered the planet of its natural resources), exists in the fictional binary star system of Tatoo.

But how realistic is it to have a stable planet orbiting one (or both) of the stars in a binary system? According to some fascinating research led by astronomers at Tennessee State University, such a double-sunset scene may not be too farfetched.

By developing a technique called precision astrometry, the researchers have discovered a Jupiter-mass exoplanet orbiting the primary star of the binary system of HR 7162 (or HD 176051), 49 light-years from Earth. They've called it "Inrakluk."

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