Astronomers say a bit of science fiction is now reality: They've found a planet orbiting two suns.

Share story

LOS ANGELES — The planet of Tatooine is home to all manner of wonderful creatures: womp rats and banthas and jawas.

But any proper “Star Wars” fan knows the planet’s most dynamic feature is its two suns, creating a magnificent double sunset that a young Luke Skywalker stares into during his wistful moments.

Astronomers announced the discovery of a real planet that orbits two suns in a paper published online Thursday in the journal Science.

The team, which used NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft in its research, also discussed its find at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and in a news conference at NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., at the Kepler project’s headquarters.

“Reality has finally caught up with science fiction,” said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution, a member of the research team.

The official name of the new planet is Kepler 16b, but astronomers are already referring to as Tatooine.

It is the first planet, astronomers say, that has been definitely shown to be orbiting two stars at once.

It is about 200 light-years from Earth and is believed to be a frozen world of rock and gas, about the size of Saturn.

The two stars it orbits also circle each other; one star is about two-thirds the size of our sun and the other about one-fifth the size of our sun.

Kepler was launched in 2009.

Material from The New York Times is included in this report.