Astronomers Capture Birth of Tatooine-Like Solar System for the First Time

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 - 4:12PM
Astronomy
Space Imagery
Solar System
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 - 4:12PM
Astronomers Capture Birth of Tatooine-Like Solar System for the First Time

Astronomers have captured close-up images of the birth of a multiple-star solar system for the first time. Although its creation is still underway, it will likely someday look like the solar system in Star Wars that contained Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine, from which multiple suns could be seen in the sky.

 

Tatooine

[Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF]

 

Tatooine

[Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF]

 

The above images show clouds of gas in the process of forming stars approximately 800 light years from Earth. The first is a close-up image taken using several telescopes, while the second is a large-scale Herschel image of the region with dust in blue. One of the pockets of gas is already a new protostar, while the other three are expected to collapse into stars in the next 40,000 years. Of these four stars, three of them are expected to become a stable multiple-star solar system. These groundbreaking images could help scientists understand the process of multiple-star solar system formation, which could, in turn, help us understand how our own solar system was formed. 

 

Here is an artist's impression of the future solar system, with the current state of the protostar and three dense gas formations on the left and the eventual three-star system on the right:

Tatooine

[Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF]

 

A simulation of the creation of the multi-star system:

Tatooine

[Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF]

 

"These kind of multi-star systems are quite common in the universe," said Gary Fuller, an astrophysics professor at The University of Manchester. "Think of Tatooine in Star Wars, where there are two 'suns' in the sky. That isn't too far away from something that could be a real formation. In fact nearly half of all stars are in this type of system."

 

We always knew Star Wars could really happen

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