Gainesville (USA) – Do you know “40 Eridani A” – no? But maybe (or even probably) you know Vulcan, the home planet of Mr. Spock from Star Trek? If so, you probably also know “40 Eridani A” – maybe without knowing it. Even Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was sure that “40 Eridani A” would most likely be considered the Vulcan’s home sun. All science-fiction fantasies aside, US astronomers have discovered a planet, a so-called super-Earth, which orbits the star just within it’s habitable, so life-friendly zone.
As the team around Jian Ge of the University of Florida in advance via ArXix.org and in an upcoming issue of the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” will report, it is now to “40 Eridani A” (HD 26965 ) discovered planet around a so-called super-earth, so a planet of the multiple size and mass of the earth.
More specifically, the planet named “40 Eridani b” is twice as big, but eight to nine times heavier than Earth. Thus, the planet is just on the type boundary between rock and gas planet. In addition, he circles his star once in 42 days and that just at the inner limit of its habitable zone. The habitable zone is the distance region within which a planet must orbit its star, so that due to moderate surface temperatures water – and thus the basis of life, as we know it at least from Earth – can exist in liquid form.
Also known as the “Keid” triple star system from the stars 40 Eridani A, B and C in the constellation of Eridanus is just 16 light-years from Earth, making the planet currently representing us at the nearest super-earth. Perfect for further future targeted observations.
Background: Spock’s home star?
While Star Trek fans have long wondered which star could be the home star of the fictional planet and Mr. Spock’s homeworld Vulcan, in July 1991 star trek inventor Gene Roddenberry teamed up with astronomers Sallie Baliunas, Robert Donahue and George Nassiopoulos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in a letter to the editor of the US magazine ” Sky & Telescope ” for “40 Eridani A” and thus pronounced against the alternative Epsilon Eridani.
Although Vulcan’s home star is never specifically identified in the TV and cinema series from an earthly perspective, Roddenberry and the astronomers favored “40 Eridani A” because it is about as old as our Sun at about 4 billion years old. By contrast, Epsilon Eridani is only about a billion years old – too young for life to have evolved, let alone vulcanic-logical thinking.
The planet was discovered using the computerized Dharma Planet Survey, which aims to search for planets of low mass around 150 bright close stars within a radius of 160 light years around our Sun.