Artist's impression of a binary star system and a habitable planet orbiting the two suns. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Permanent Habitable Zones Found Around Multiple Star Systems Raise Hopes Of Alien Life

A real-life Tatooine could be lurking in one of these star systems.

It seems that science fiction writers had it all figured out decades ago. We’ve seen movies where habitable planets have multiple suns. We have seen planets of all sizes, even shapes, be inhabited. But we never knew that this was possible in real life.

According to scientists, binary stars can also have habitable planets. If you don’t believe it, experts even named five star systems where habitable zones exist.

In the past, astronomers have observed more than a dozen worlds orbiting two or more suns. The problem is that none of these planets are like Earth. All have the characteristics of Neptune or even larger celestial objects and are made of ice or gas. Observing smaller exoplanets is often impossible with the current telescopes.

People were first introduced to planets with two suns by the legendary Star Wars franchise and the planet Tatooine. But until now, there were serious doubts that any such existing planet could be habitable. Here is why.

You all know how gravity works with one sun, we live in such conditions. But if you put a second sun in the Solar System, it would cause our planet to move in different directions. Hypothetically, the orbit could be fixed and stable but even like that, we would likely not have a circular Earth but a more elongated-like planet.

The habitable zones in each of the systems that researchers analyzed in search for habitable planets. Credit: Nikolaos Georgakarakos
The habitable zones in each of the systems that researchers analyzed in search for habitable planets. Credit: Nikolaos Georgakarakos

If we follow this logic, an elongated world will mean that the distance to the sun will make temperatures here on Earth unstable. We would have completely different seasons each year and the temperatures would likely be in the extreme – either deadly hot or freezing cold.

An international team of researchers challenged these facts in a new study based on a newly introduced mathematical framework. With this new method, they analyzed nine binary systems that were known to have giant planets. When the results were ready, nobody expected to find seven systems that have habitable zones that could host real habitable planets. Only two of the analyzed star systems did not have the necessary conditions.

These systems are located between 2764 and 5933 light-years away from us. One of the factors was whether planets could have stable orbits like Earth. Earthlike planets in seven systems prove that they could exist in such a way. Furthermore, the temperatures would be stable and suitable for the existence of water. And you know, if there is water, it means that life can potentially develop.

In five of those seven systems, researchers found that the habitable zones are to Earth’s to the Sun and this is why they consider 5/9 to be potential candidates. Namely, these are Kepler-34, -35, -38, -64, -413.

Of course, nothing is conclusive but these results raise the hopes that we may eventually find habitable planets. If not, astronomers at least can narrow down the targets for research. In this case, they got a confirmation that binary star systems should be studied in the search of the next Earth. Maybe the first habitable planet besides Earth we find will be a completely different world than ours.


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Sources:

Bergan, B. (2021, April 16). Scientists just found five star systems capable of supporting life.
Frontiersin. (n.d.). Researchers identify five double star systems potentially suitable for life.
Georgakarakos, N., Eggl, S., & Dobbs-Dixon, I. (2021, March 12). Circumbinary habitable zones in the presence of a giant planet.
Prostak, S. (n.d.). Astronomers Identify Five Multiple Star Systems with Permanent Habitable Zone.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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