Tatooine-Like: Planet With Two Sunsets Discovered

Artist's rendition of a binary star sunset as seen from a planet orbiting Kepler-16b. Image: Ames Research Center / NASA

SAN DIEGO — Astronomers say they have discovered the largest planet outside the solar system that orbits two suns.

The newfound world, about the size of Jupiter, is 3,700 light-years from Earth. A light-year is nearly 6 trillion miles.

It was detected by a team led by NASA and San Diego State University using the planet-hunting Kepler telescope. The discovery was announced Monday during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.

Although the planet is in the habitable zone — where water that is crucial to life can be liquid — it’s not a good candidate to support life because it’s so big, scientists said.


“It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm since it is easier to find big planets than small ones,” San Diego State astronomer Jerome Orosz said in a statement.

Planets that circle a pair of suns are nicknamed “Tatooine” after the fictional body in the “Star Wars” films that boasts a double sunset.


In 2011, scientists found the first Tatooine planet — a world about the size of Saturn 200 light-years from Earth.

NASA launched Kepler in 2009 to search for planets — mainly Earth-like planets — outside the solar system.