Scientists find the largest known planet to orbit two stars

Kepler-1647b is as big as Jupiter, but it's warmed by two suns.

Lynette Cook

The notion of planets in a Tatooine-like system with two or more stars isn't strange (they've been known since 1993), but a truly massive planet hasn't been seen before... until now. Scientists using NASA's Kepler space telescope have discovered Kepler-1647b, the largest known planet to orbit two stars (aka a circumbinary planet). The 4.4 billion year old gas giant is about as large as Jupiter, and orbits at a much further distance than other confirmed planets with a 1,107-day trip. That's still much closer than Jupiter, which takes 12 years, but it remains a rarity given our current knowledge.

To no one's surprise, researchers are doubtful that there's any life to be found on Kepler-1647b; you won't be visiting Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen any time soon. There's a chance that any large moons around the planet might harbor organisms, though. And the discoverers are quick to note that this is just the "tip of the iceberg" for large, long-orbit circumbinary planets. Although the chances of finding a planet that supports life are very slim, there should be enough of these unusual star systems out there that the concept is plausible.