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Where No Gay Has Gone Before: First Tattooine, now Vulcan

Enterprise in orbit above the planet Vulcan.
Enterprise in orbit above the planet Vulcan.

NASA announced earlier it might have located Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tattooine.  For the past nine years, NASA has embarked on a planet finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest to find Mr. Spock’s home Vulcan.  Astronomers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory are searching for a planet orbiting 40 Eridani, a triple-star system about 16 light-years from Earth.  ‘Vulcan’ is thought to orbit the red-orange K dwarf star Eridani A.

K-stars are orangey stars, slightly cooler than our sun.  They are hotter, brighter and bluer than M stars, but cooler, dimmer and redder than O, B, A F and G stars.  Did you get all that?

The stars in the Eridani system are hundreds of astronomical units apart, so a planet where life could Live Long and Prosper, would have to be in the sweet spot, the habitable zone about 0.6 astronomical units from Eridani A.  An astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth.

As we know from Star Trek lore, Vulcan is a Minshara class planet, located about 16 light-years from Earth, orbiting 40 Eridani, endorsed by Gene Roddenberry as Vulcan’s sun in a letter published July 1991 in Sky & Telescope magazine.  Its surface is hotter than Earth.  Its gravity is stronger and its atmosphere thinner.

In the original Star Trek series, Spock mentions Vulcan has no moon, which comes as no surprise to Uhura.

Let’s hope we can find it before the Romulan Nero destroys it.


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