Two Planets, Two Suns, One Happy Solar System

With the help of NASA's Kepler long-range scanning mission, scientists have located a solar system in which two planets are orbiting around two suns, confirming that multiple-planet "circumbinary systems" exist.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

Anybody who's seen the first Star Wars movie can remember the strange thrill of seeing, through Luke Skywalker's eyes, the twin suns of his home planet, Tatooine. With the help of NASA's Kepler mission, astronomers have recently detected a binary star system about which two planets are enjoying relatively stable orbits. The larger planet orbits the suns every 303 days, which puts it into the desirable "habitable region" where liquid water could exist. Due to its size -- its radius is more than four times that of Earth's -- scientists believe it may be a gas giant similar to Uranus. However, any moons orbiting the planet could potentially contain water.

What's the Big Idea?

Kepler has discovered binary stars before, including four with their own single orbiting planet, but it's the first time a "circumbinary system" has been detected that contains two planets. This simple fact -- that multiple planets can exist in such a system -- highlights the team's findings, which were published online yesterday. It's not an exact version of Tatooine, however: Unlike Luke's home world, where the daylight was fairly constant, these two planets move quickly in their orbits, resulting in uneven illumination.

Photo Credit:

Setting a maximum wage for CEOs would be good for everyone

Could this be the long-awaited solution to economic inequality?

Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

Under capitalism, the argument goes, it's every man for himself. Through the relentless pursuit of self-interest, everyone benefits, as if an invisible hand were guiding each of us toward the common good. Everyone should accordingly try to get as much as they can, not only for their goods but also for their labour. Whatever the market price is is, in turn, what the buyer should pay. Just like the idea that there should be a minimum wage, the idea that there should be a maximum wage seems to undermine the very freedom that the free market is supposed to guarantee.

Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points
Keep reading Show less