When it comes to sci-fi, Star Wars is one of the most popular generation-defining movies. Tatooine has burned in sci-fi fan's minds as an arid planet with 2 suns and the home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
But recent research suggests that Tatooine and its 2 suns might not be entirely science-fiction; it might be something a celestial body can survive.
What are Exoplanets?
Exoplanets refer to any planet orbiting a star other than our solar system's Sun. According to EarthSky, Astronomers have been able to identify more than 4,000 exoplanets orbiting different stars outside of the solar system, with 1,000 more exoplanets waiting for confirmation.
In 1992, astronomers first identified the first 2 exoplanets seen observing a pulsar. And confirmed the first-ever exoplanet orbiting a star similar to our sun in 1995. Up until this point, exoplanets were only theoretical, researchers couldn't identify them because of their great distance to Earth, with the closest at several light-years away. In addition, exoplanets are significantly dim compared to stars which is why larger and brighter stars often obscure astronomers' views of exoplanets.
Before the first discoveries, astronomers theorized the exoplanets would resemble Earth. Shockingly many of the identified exoplanets greatly differed from our planet in orbit and position, which has proven difficult to explain.
Could Tatooine be Plausible?
Research published in arXiv, entitled "Planet formation in stellar binaries: Global simulations of planetesimal growth," researchers tackles how exoplanets may survive orbiting a star similar to the Earth's sun and oner companion star as far away as Uranus. With the chaotic environment conceived, researchers intend to know how difficult it would be for globs of materials to combine and build planets which is the foundation of planet formation.
Roman Rafikov, the co-author of the study and an astrophysicist, says in a statement with the University of Cambridge that the theory is logical for planet systems forming around a singular star; however, planet-forming within a binary system tends to get even more complicated due to the companion star acting like an eggbeater further exciting the protoplanetary disc.
Researchers believed that a companion star stirring things up and speeding the rate at which globs of matter are colliding, the formation of planets would be hindered by preventing matter from sticking together. Such speed, according to Kedron Silsbee physicists in the same statement, would force the solid matter to collide at a much higher rate that would result in the particles destroying each other.
Hence, to find out more, researchers developed simulations based on Alpha Centauri under the premise that the constant distance between 2 stars, roughly 20x the Sun's distance from the Earth, isn't a coincidence but a required failsafe.
Simulations, according to Space, showed scenarios where planets could coexist with a pair of stars. Specifically, planet formation could be a success given that it began to form planets with a significantly even rubble disk surrounding both sars. These disks would need to be circular, with the planetesimals at about 6 miles wide or even bigger.
Hence, Tatooine may not be 100% science fiction, but the requirement for such a unique planet formation to occur is a 1 in a million chance.
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