The home planet of Luke Skywalker from the space opera “Star Wars” is science fiction. But even in such fictional worlds, you can find something from real life. Scientists believe that Tatooine-like planets orbiting binary stars may be our best choice in the search for habitable planets outside our Solar System.
Paired stars are very common in the Universe. Most of them even have planets. Moreover, there are many more planets orbiting around binary systems than around such lonely stars as our Sun. But until now, no one had a clear idea whether such worlds could be favorable for life. New computer modeling shows that in many cases, life can originate and exist in these binary systems. The results of such a study were demonstrated at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society last month.
Earth-like planets orbiting some binary stars can remain in stable orbits for at least a billion years. Such stability would be enough to allow life to develop and evolve, provided that there are comfortable conditions on the planets: not too hot or cold.
12.5% of likely “living” planets
The researchers conducted a simulation of 4,000 configurations of binary stars, around each of which orbits a planet similar to Earth. Then the scientists tracked the movement of the planets over a billion years of simulation to see if the planets would remain in orbit on the time scales in which life could have originated. In many cases, the planets were either absorbed by one of the stars or ejected from their gravitational influence. The rest remained in fairly stable orbits for several billion years. Of the 4,000 planets modeled by the team, approximately 500 maintained stable orbits that kept them in the “habitat zone” for at least 80% of their existence.
The possibility of the existence of stable and habitable planets in binary star systems is an urgent problem, says Jason Wright, an astrophysicist from the University of Pennsylvania.
“At the time of the release of the first Star Wars movie, we did not know a single planet outside the Solar System. Now we know that there are many of them and most of them orbit around binary stars,” explains Jason Wright.
Earlier we talked about what we would hear on other planets.
Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time