Shedding Twice the Light on Circumbinary Systems
Astronomers are beginning to understand the unlikely formation and dangerous survival of exoplanets circling binary stars.
Reality is catching up with science fiction. In 2011 astronomers detected a planet orbiting two stars and nicknamed it Tatooine after the fictional Star Wars planet. To date, six similar planets have joined the list of wacky circumbinary planets.
But even with a half dozen of these systems to study, astronomers are baffled. Binary star systems are downright dangerous. Powerful tidal forces from the two stars can easily grind a planet to dust, let alone prevent it from forming in the first place.
This week, however, two binary star systems are shedding twice the light on their circling exoplanets, providing promising clues to these exotic systems.