Are Binary Sunsets Possible on Exoplanets?

In the past two decades, astronomers have made leaps of progress in detecting planets outside of our solar system orbiting other stars. Before our technology was able to detect the insanely small measurements needed to be able to spot these exoplanets, the thought of finding other planets seemed impossible. Yet we now currently know of over 2,000 planets orbiting other stars, or even wandering around space without a star (i09)! All of this talk about other planets reminds me of the many worlds created by George Lucas and showcased through the Star Wars movies. One of the most iconic scenes in Episode IV: A New Hope involves Luke Skywalker outside his Tatooine home watching two suns slowly disappear from the horizon. In this blog post, we will discuss whether or not this binary sunset could exist for some extrasolar planets.

Do we have evidence of planets orbiting binary star systems? In fact, several such worlds have been found. The majority of these, however, are gas giants that likely do not harbor life (i09). For instance, in 2016 the Keplar 16b system was found to have a planet. This system combines both binary star system and transit to show us that a giant gaseous planet is orbiting two stars, which would make a binary sunset possible (NASA). So while the planets we have discovered around binary star systems so far don’t look like the dry desert planet of Tatooine, binary sunsets are a very real phenomenon in our universe.


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