Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet

Date:
May 11, 2007
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
Science fiction may soon become science fact. Astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have recently concluded that the upcoming planet-finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest, would be able to detect an Earth-like planet around the star 40 Eridani, a planet familiar to "Star Trek" fans as "Vulcan."

Artist's concept comparing our sun's habitable zone with that of 40 Eridani.
Credit: NASA

Science fiction may soon become science fact.

Astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have recently concluded that the upcoming planet-finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest, would be able to detect an Earth-like planet around the star 40 Eridani, a planet familiar to "Star Trek" fans as "Vulcan." 40 Eridani, a triple-star system 16 light-years from Earth, includes a red-orange K dwarf star slightly smaller and cooler than our sun. Vulcan is thought to orbit that dwarf star, called 40 Eridani A.

When pondering the idea that SIM might be able to detect Vulcan, astronomer Dr. Angelle Tanner at Caltech had two questions: Can a planet form around 40 Eridani A? Can SIM detect such a planet?

She consulted a planetary theorist, Dr. Sean Raymond of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "Since the three members of the triple star system are so far away from each other [hundreds of astronomical units - the Earth-Sun distance], I see no reason why an Earth-mass planet would not be able to form around the primary star, 40 Eridani A," he said.

If Vulcan life were to exist on the planet, the orbit of the planet would have to lie in a sweet spot around the star where liquid water could be present on its surface. Water is an essential ingredient for any organism to live long and prosper. For 40 Eridani A, this spot, or "habitable zone," is 0.6 astronomical units from the star. That means Vulcans would get to celebrate a birthday about every six months.

The SIM PlanetQuest instrument will be so accurate, it could measure the thickness of a nickel at a distance from Earth to the moon. Using a set of mathematical models based on Newton's Laws, Tanner was able to conclude that SIM would be able to definitively determine whether there is an Earth-mass planet orbiting in the habitable zone around 40 Eridani A, and could also determine its orbit.

This is quite an exciting prospect, since NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, planned for launch after SIM, would not only be able to take a rudimentary "picture" of the planet, but also could search for signatures of life such as methane and ozone.

When asked what life would be like on Vulcan, Tanner speculated that the inhabitants might be pale. "A K dwarf star emits its light at wavelengths which are a bit redder compared to those from the sun, so I wonder whether it's harder to get a tan there," she said.

The results of Tanner's simulations will be submitted for publication in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070511081331.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (2007, May 11). Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070511081331.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070511081331.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — The three-man crew touched down in Kazakhstan Wednesday after more than five months of science experiments in orbit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins