When Science Meets Science Fiction: Planet Found Orbiting 40 Eridani A

The home to one of science fiction’s most iconic characters is a planet named Vulcan supposedly orbiting the star “40 Eridani A”, which astronomers refer to as HD 26965.

That character, Spock (from the #StarTrek franchise created by the late Gene Roddenberry), may have an actual home world after all as astronomers from the University of Florida (UF) and Tennessee State University (TSU) have discovered a super-Earth #exoplanet in orbit around 40 Eridani A.

Lead astronomer Jian Ge from UF described the planet and it’s host star as follows:

“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.”

Ge also said,

“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.”

Astronomer Gregory Henry from TSU said,

“Star Trek fans may know the star HD 26965 by its alternative moniker, 40 Eridani A.”

Henry said further,

“Vulcan was connected to 40 Eridani A in the publications ‘Star Trek 2’ by James Blish (Bantam, 1968) and ‘Star Trek Maps’ by Jeff Maynard (Bantam, 1980).”

In a letter published in the “Sky and Telescope” periodical in July 1991, Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) along with Sallie Baliunas, Robert Donahue, and George Nassiopoulos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics confirmed the identification of 40 Eridani A as Vulcan’s host star. The 40 Eridani star system is composed of three stars with Vulcan orbiting the primary star. The two companion stars “would gleam brilliantly in the Vulcan sky,” they wrote in their 1991 letter.

Artist’s Conception of Vulcan

The 40 Eridani Star System


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