Like Tatooine in “Star Wars,” the newly discovered Kepler-453b has two suns.
And while there are no signs of Jedi or Stormtroopers, the planet sits in the “habitable zone” of its stars. In this case, however, scientists believe Kepler-453b is a gas giant — which rules out life on its surface, but doesn’t mean there aren’t organisms nearby.
“It could have moons that are rocky, which means you could have life on the moons in this system,” Stephen Kane, one of the astronomy researchers at San Francisco State University who made the discovery, said in a statement on Monday.
A year on Kepler-453b lasts 240 Earth days, during which it orbits two stars, which measure 94 percent and 20 percent the size of our sun.
Researchers will share more details about their discovery Friday at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Honolulu.
This is the 10th “circumbinary” planet — meaning it circles two stars — ever discovered. For the team reviewing data from NASA’s orbiting Kepler observatory, timing was everything.
Planets are usually detected as they transit between their sun and Earth, but because of the gravitational pull of its two stars, Kepler-453b is only visible 9 percent of the time. If they had not spotted now, it wouldn’t have been visible again until 2066.