Life imitates art? Astronomers find Star Trek planet Vulcan

20 Septembre, 2018, 18:10 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Mr. Spock's home world has a basis in reality.                  CBS

Located some 16 light-years away from Earth, Eridani is similar to our sun in age and appearance, but smaller and cooler than our star, making it emit more of an orange hue.

The researchers behind the discovery are excited about more than just the "Star Trek" connection, though, they said. The planet is twice the size of Earth and has a 42-day-long year. The new find is also the first so-called super-Earth discovered by the Dharma Planet Survey, which is created to hunt down relatively small planets around relatively bright stars.

"Star Trek's " planet Vulcan, ancestral home of Spock and his species, just became a little more real, thanks to a team of exoplanet scientists.

It marks the first so-called super-Earth to be found by the Dharma Survey.

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"Star Trek fans may know the star HD 26965 by its alternative moniker, 40 Eridani A", says Henry, who collected precise brightness measurements of the star at TSU's automated observatory needed to confirm the presence of the planet. The (fictional) planet Vulcan - home world of the legendary Mr. Spock - was first connected to the (real) star 40 Eridani A in 1968, in the publication Star Trek 2 by James Blish. "Therefore, HD 26965 may be an ideal host star for an advanced civilization", Tennessee State University astronomer Matthew Muterspaugh said today in a news release.

HD 26965 is an orange dwarf star, only slightly cooler and slightly less massive than our sun, with a 10.1-year magnetic activity cycle that's almost identical to our sun's 11.6-year sunspot cycle.

The Dharma Planet Survey, which is looking for low-mass planets around bright nearby stars, reports in a paper due to appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that the putative "Vulcan"-officially known as HD 26965b (and shown above in an artist's illustration)-is eight times the mass of Earth". Then, in 1991, Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry and three astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) confirmed in a letter to Sky & Telescope magazine that 40 Eridani A could indeed work as Vulcan's host star. Now, almost 30 years later, that prediction has proven oddly accurate: a super-Earth type of planet was been discovered orbiting the 40 Eridani star. This is the first such discovery by the Dharma Planet Survey, which is created to hunt down relatively small planets around bright stars in the hope of discovering another habitable home-planet. And now, a team of scientists has said that the star really does host at least one planet. The planet found orbiting 40 Eridani A is estimated to have between 8 and 9 times the mass of Earth, as well as double its radius. Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock's home.

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