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If creatures exist on planets with twin suns, they would have to be extremely adaptable.

The most detailed look yet at the energy from stellar pairs shows there are more potentially habitable worlds in the galaxy than we thought. But the planets' denizens must be able to adapt quickly to wild temperature shifts and unpredictable seasons.

Most stars in the galaxy come in pairs or more. Until recently, astronomers assumed the regions around many of these binaries would be too gravitationally chaotic to host planets (see "Binary star apocalypse", below).

Now that view has changed. A handful of planets have been discovered orbiting two stars, including some that appear to be in the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist.

"This means we cannot dismiss binary stars as being inhospitable," says William Welsh of San Diego State University. "That opens up a vast number of possibilities that were previously considered too hostile for life."

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