Real-world astronomers have discovered what could very well be Mr. Spock’s home planet of Vulcan.
The Earth-like planet has been found orbiting in the habitable zone around the star HD 26965, also known as 40 Eridani A, the star considered to be the location of Vulcan in Star Trek. The finding comes from the Dharma Planet Survey in a new study led by University of Florida astronomer Jian Ge and a team including Tennessee State University astronomers Matthew Muterspaugh and Gregory Henry.
Ge describes the new discovery in a statement:
“The new planet is a ‘super-Earth’ orbiting the star HD 26965, which is only 16 light years from Earth, making it the closest super-Earth orbiting another Sun-like star. The planet is roughly twice the size of Earth and orbits its star with a 42-day period just inside the star’s optimal habitable zone.”
40 Eridani is actually a triple star system with three dwarf stars. 40 Eridani A is considered the primary star of the system. As a smaller star, its habitable zone is closer in than our own.
The official release about the discovery also takes notes of the Star Trek connection:
“The orange-tinted HD 26965 is only slightly cooler and slightly less massive than our Sun, is approximately the same age as our Sun, and has a 10.1-year magnetic cycle nearly identical to the Sun’s 11.6-year sunspot cycle,” explains Muterspaugh, who helped to commission the Dharma spectrograph on the TSU 2-meter automatic spectroscopic telescope. “Therefore,” he adds, “HD 26965 may be an ideal host star for an advanced civilization.” “Star Trek fans may know the star HD 26965 by its alternative moniker, 40 Eridani A,” says Henry.
Roddenberry deemed 40 Eridani A as Vulcan
40 Eridani A has long been unofficially considered the Vulcan star. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry himself favored the system. It has been the location of Vulcan in both fan-made and officially licensed books, such as Star Trek: Star Charts. 40 Eridani A was also identified as the location of Vulcan in Dianne Duane’s 1988 Star Trek novel Spock’s World.
For more about the discovery, read the full report at ufl.edu.