No, Star Wars fans, that’s not Tatooine. The above image is actually one of the NASA Exoplanet Travel Series Art Prints and it’s based on an actual planet.
NASA has always appealed to geeks. What other job offers the opportunity to wear a cool spacesuit, fly a cool spaceship, or see a sunset/sunrise from outer space? However, they’re soaring into new territory (for them) by creating a few travel posters for three of the eight planets that were recently discovered. Why these three? Because they’re considered Earth-like, with one possibly even being habitable.
The above image with the cool twin suns has the following description:
Like Luke Skywalker’s planet “Tatooine” in Star Wars, Kepler-16b orbits a pair of stars. Depicted here as a terrestrial planet, Kepler-16b might also be a gas giant like Saturn. Prospects for life on this unusual world aren’t good, as it has a temperature similar to that of dry ice. But the discovery indicates that the movie’s iconic double-sunset is anything but science fiction.
Twice as big in volume as the Earth, HD 40307g straddles the line between “Super-Earth” and “mini-Neptune” and scientists aren’t sure if it has a rocky surface or one that’s buried beneath thick layers of gas and ice. One thing is certain though: at eight time the Earth’s mass, its gravitational pull is much, much stronger.
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our Sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star’s red-wavelength photons, making for a color palette that’s very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA’s planet hunting telescope.
The NASA Exoplanet Travel Series Art Prints can be downloaded for free in either JPG or TIFF format at PlanetQuest.
(via Geeks are Sexy)