x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Star Wars rising

Life imitates art as Nasa scientists name a planet which orbits two suns after Luke Skywalker's home. This is, of course, in a galaxy far, far away.

Galaxy hopping through hyperspace in a Millennium Falcon-type spaceship remains a distant dream (we think). Should the dream be realised, it's still unlikely we'll ever discover a cuddly, teddy-bear-resembling alien race like the Ewoks. And the odds against encountering a creature as annoying as Jar Jar Binks in our future interstellar travels are astronomical.

But don't count Star Wars out just yet. As scary as it may seem, life appears to be imitating art in the famous space saga's depiction almost 35 years ago of a planet with two suns.

A new planet orbiting two stars, similar to the one imagined by George Lucas all those years ago, was discovered last week by Nasa scientists. And just like Tatooine, home to the film series' hero Luke Skywalker, the newly-named Kepler-16b also experiences two sunsets.

Unlike the desert terrain stalked by Jawas, however, Kepler-16b, which lies 200 light years from earth, is cold, gaseous and, like the rest of the known universe, does not support life in any form.

Nasa's $600 million Kepler space telescope continues to look out into the night skies. Scientists are betting on finding more planets in two orbits and don't bet against other phenomena, formerly the province of fiction, in the outer corners of the universe. In galaxies far, far away.