Has Vulcan – the home world of Mister Spock from Star Trek – been found? Astronomers believe they have discovered an exoplanet right where this fictional world was located. And this planet is (relatively) right in our neighborhood.
Astronomers from the Dharma Planet Survey, a new study from researchers at the University of Florida (UF) and Tennessee State University (TSU) announced their discovery on September 18.
“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,” Jian Ge of the University of Florida said.
The star around which this super-Earth resides, also known as 40 Eridani A, is slightly cooler and less massive than our own Sun. These conditions could make the newly-discovered exoplanet an ideal home for an advanced civilization. The actual star sits in a three-star system, with the exoplanet orbiting the largest of these bodies, similar to Star Trek. The brightest member of this trio can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation of Eridanus. Similar to our own Sun, 40 Eridani A has a sunspot cycle just over 10 years long, just one year shorter than our own stellar companion.
The famed science officer aboard the original Star Trek series, Mr. Spock, was said to have come from the planet Vulcan, which orbited the star 40 Eridani A. In the series, this world is depicted as a desert world, with a thinner atmosphere than that found on Earth. Given the close proximity of the newly-discovered exoplanet to its stellar parent, these conditions might also exist on the actual planet.
In Star Trek, Vulcan was said to have no moons, but astronomers are still unable to determine whether or not exoplanets such as this are accompanied by natural satellites.
This Vulcan-like world was found utilizing the 50-inch Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT) on Mt. Lemmon, outside of Tucson, Arizona.