You might think of the planet Kepler-64b as Tatooine-plus. Like the home of Luke Skywalker, the planet orbits both members of a binary — two stars locked in a tight orbit around each other. That gives the planet two sunrises and two sunsets every day.
In the case of Kepler-64b, though, the two stars are bound to another binary. That gives the system four stars in all. So far, Kepler-64b is the only planet known to reside in a four-star system.
One of the stars the planet orbits is bigger, heavier, and brighter than the Sun. The other is smaller, lighter, and much fainter than the Sun. The stars are quite close together, so they orbit each other once every three weeks.
The planet itself is a giant. It orbits the stars at about 60 percent of the distance from Earth to the Sun. That makes the planet quite hot — probably too hot for life.
The other binary consists of a Sun-like star and another feeble star. The pair is separated from the other stars by about a thousand times the Earth-Sun distance. Even at that range, though, it would be bright enough see during the day. And at night, the combined stars would shine about as bright as a full Moon — lighting up the surface of a unique planet.
The Kepler-64 system is several thousand light-years away, in Cygnus. The swan climbs into view by around midnight, and is high in the sky at first light. Kepler-64 is near the intersection of the swan’s body and wings.
Script by Damond Benningfield