Feeds

Boffins tell ALIEN twin-sunned planets: You're adopted

Actually spawned by OTHER parent stars 'far, far away'

High performance access to file storage

Whether you're talking about Magrathea, Tattooine or Gallifrey, Earth's favourite alien life-forms frequently come from planets with two suns. But the likelihood is that those planets actually ended up orbiting two stars after being made somewhere else entirely.

An artist's conception of Kepler-34b which orbits a double-star system

Boffins have often wondered just how planets can be formed in orbit around two stars since the gravitational pull from the suns should tear the worlds apart or grind them down in destructive collisions with other bits of space debris.

A new study from the University of Bristol suggests that so-called circumbinary planets actually form far away from these extreme environments and then migrate through space to their eventual orbits.

The astroboffins used computer simulations of early planet formation to figure out the effects of gravity and collisions on the material needed to build new worlds. The simulations showed that most existing circumbinary planets, like Kepler-34(AB)b, couldn't have been made where they are now.

"Our simulations show that the circumbinary disk is a hostile environment even for large, gravitationally strong objects. Taking into account data on collisions as well as the physical growth rate of planets, we found that Kepler 34(AB)b would have struggled to grow where we find it now," said Dr Zoe Leinhardt in a statement.

The only known planet that might have been formed around its two suns is Kepler-47(AB)c, which is further from its binary stars than any other observed two-sun worlds.

"Circumbinary planets have captured the imagination of many science-fiction writers and film-makers - our research shows just how remarkable such planets are," said lead author Stefan Lines.

"Understanding more about where they form will assist future exoplanet discovery missions in the hunt for Earth-like planets in binary star systems."

The full study, "Forming circumbinary planets: N-body simulations of Kepler-34", was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.