We've (Sort Of) Found Spock's Home Planet
Between anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, and whatever sci-fi pedophile colony Infowars listeners are into this week, it sure feels like our entire planet is getting more cuckoo bird by the minute. No wonder some of us wish they could just live in a place that was governed purely by cold, unshakable logic. Well good news, because you might not have to wait for the inevitable robot uprising for that place to exist, as astronomers have found the planet Vulcan.
In 1991, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and three astronomers sat down to answer one of the show's biggest unanswered questions. No, not what the writers were smoking when they came up with Tribbles, but where exactly Vulcan was -- the home of Spock and his race of utilitarian space elves with super-kinky mating habits. They figured out that Vulcan's most likely location would be in orbit of a star called 40 Eridani A, also known as Keid, which is pretty similar to our own Sun. Of course, Roddenberry never suspected a planet to actually be circling that star, let alone one that could be habitable. But this week, the Dharma Planet Survey announced they've stumbled upon exactly that: a big-ass planet circling 40 Eridani A that could potentially be a home to pointy-eared carbon-based lifeforms.
There's not much known about S'chn T'gai Spockington III's home planet (currently named HD 26965) besides its existence as measured through the gravitational impact on its star. But what we do know is that it's a "super-Earth" (about twice the size of our piddly planet) close to the habitable zone in relation to its star, meaning it could it could theoretically have an atmosphere and allow the pooling of liquid water. But the cozy comparisons to our own Earth stop there. This Vulcan has only a 42-day year, probably has a pretty bone-crushing gravity, and while its location hasn't been pinpointed exactly, it's likely a bit too close to its star for humanoid creatures to live long and prosper before melting into gooey puddles.
But perhaps the most exciting part of this Star Trek discovery is that this real Vulcan is also the nearest super-Earth we know of. The 40 Eridani A star is "only" 16 light years away, making this exoplanet the most reachable reboot we've got for when we finally blow up our own planet. In fact, the Keid star is so close that it's observable from Earth with the naked eye. So from now on, whenever someone tells you that facts don't care about your feelings, you can point to the sky and tell them exactly where they can go.
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