Article image

Tatooine-like planets with two stars are hospitable to life

Luke Skywalker’s upbringing on the harsh, desert landscape of Tatooine, as depicted in the “Star Wars” saga, could have been markedly different had his fictional home been located in a more hospitable binary star system.

This intriguing possibility is supported by findings from a recent Yale-led study, which suggests that planets orbiting two stars might actually have climates more conducive to life than previously thought.

Rethinking life on planets with two stars

This thought-provoking research indicates that binary star systems — where planets orbit a primary star with a secondary star also in orbit around the system — might inherently favor a more orderly cosmic arrangement.

This challenges the long-held perception of the universe as a domain ruled by chaos and misalignment.

“We show, for the first time, that there is an unexpected pile-up of systems where everything is aligned,” stated Malena Rice, an assistant professor of astronomy at Yale and the study’s lead author.

“The planets orbit precisely in the same direction that the first star rotates, and the second star orbits that system on the same plane as the planets.”

Her team’s research, published on February 22 in The Astronomical Journal, reveals a surprising trend of planetary and stellar alignments.

Studying binary star systems

By employing data from the Gaia DR3 catalog, the NASA Exoplanet Archive, and the TEPCat catalog, Rice and her colleagues have meticulously crafted 3D geometries of planetary orbits in binary systems.

Their analysis uncovered that out of 40 systems studied, nine exhibited perfect alignment — with planets orbiting in the same direction as the rotation of the primary star, and the secondary star moving along the same plane as the planets.

This alignment could signify a natural inclination towards order in planetary systems, potentially increasing the likelihood of stable conditions suitable for life.

“It could be an indication that planetary systems like to push toward an orderly configuration,” Rice explained, noting the significance of such alignment for the formation and sustainability of life.

Misaligned stellar companions can destabilize planetary orbits or cause extreme temperature variations, both of which are detrimental to the development of life.

Planetary life with two suns: Implications for habitability

But what would life look like on a more temperate version of Tatooine?

According to the study’s findings, inhabitants of such a planet could experience continuous daylight during certain seasons, with one star illuminating one side of the planet and the other star the opposite side.

This would ensure that the planet receives sunlight without the extreme temperatures associated with closer stellar proximity.

In different seasons, both stars would shine on the same side of the planet, with one appearing significantly larger than the other due to its closer distance.

Beyond Tatooine: Future of exoplanet exploration

In summary, this Yale-led study dramatically expands our understanding of the cosmos, revealing that binary star systems might not only be more common but also more hospitable to life than previously believed.

By demonstrating a surprising tendency towards orderly alignments, this research opens new horizons in the search for extraterrestrial life, challenging us to reconsider our assumptions about the conditions necessary for habitable planets.

With these insights, we stand on the brink of a new era in astronomy, where the discovery of life-friendly planets in binary systems could become a reality, transforming our quest to find our place in the universe.

The full study was published in the The Astronomical Journal.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day