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Scientists Find Real-Life Version Of ‘Star Trek’ Planet Vulcan

21 September 2018

This new candidate boasts a radius twice the size of Earth's, and has almost nine times the mass.

Matthew Muterspaugh, study author and an astronomer from the Tennessee State University, reveals that the orange-hued star HD 26965 shares a lot of properties with the sun.

"The star around which Vulcan orbits was never identified in the original series or in any of the feature films based on it and so has never been officially established", Roddenberry and his compatriots wrote.

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Researchers spotted the planet using the 50-inch Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT) atop Mt Lemmon in southern Arizona. The planet itself doesn't look quite as appealing as the star, because this world seems to orbit a little too close to its sun to be in the habitable zone where liquid water can be retained on the surface. The star is also about the same age as the Sun (4 billion years old), allowing intelligent life to evolve from more than just bacteria. In July of 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 fictional host star.

A group of astronomers led by University of Florida's Jian Ge first visualized the Vulcan lookalike as part of Dharma Planet Survey, which is exploring some 150 very bright stars near our solar system. Afterwards, 40 Eridani was featured in a handful of scenes of Star Trek: Enterprise. Among Star Trek fans, this star continued to be associated with Vulcan in the decades afterwards.

Sadly, though, the newly detected planet is unlikely to acquire the official "Vulcan" moniker anytime soon.

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"Spock served on the starship Enterprise, whose mission was to seek out odd new worlds, a mission shared by the Dharma Planet Survey", stated Gregory Henry, one of the lead authors of the study.

Since the concept was first presented in 1953, many stars have been shown to have a Goldilocks area, and some of them have one or several planets in this zone, like "Kepler-186f", discovered in 2014.

The Dharma Planet Survey is created to detect low-mass planets around nearby stars.

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The researchers emphasize that the star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike most stars, which were found exoplanets. "Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock's home", says Bo Ma, a UF postdoc on the team and the first author of the paper just published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists Find Real-Life Version Of ‘Star Trek’ Planet Vulcan