The Dharma Planet Survey might have found the real-life Vulcan, a planet from the popular sci-fi television series, Star Trek.
In a new study, scientists have revealed the discovery of a planet twice the size of Earth and orbiting the star HD 26965, or otherwise known as the 40 Eridani A.
To Trekkies, the orange-tinged star that is only 16 light-years away from Earth is connected to Spock's home planet, Vulcan.
A 'Star Trek' Discovery
In 1968, sci-fi author James Blish introduced 40 Eridani A to the Star Trek lore via the book Star Trek 2. The collection of stories, which was adapted from the original television series' scripts, detailed the galactic address of Spock, the Enterprise's beloved science officer.
In the 90s, Star Trek producer Gene Roddenberry made it known in a letter to Sky & Telescope, arguing that 40 Eridani A would make the ideal home for Vulcan and Spock.
"Presumably, Vulcan orbits the primary star, an orange main-sequence dwarf of spectral type K1... Two companion stars — a 9th magnitude white dwarf and an 11th magnitude red dwarf — orbit each other about 400 astronomical units from the primary," wrote Roddenberry. "They would gleam brilliantly in the Vulcan sky."
The real-life Vulcan was discovered by scientists using the Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope or DEFT, a 50-inch telescope situated on top of Mt Lemmon in Arizona. This is the first super-Earth discovered by the Dharma Planet Survey.
Life In Vulcan
Meanwhile, 40 Eridani A is slightly cooler and slightly smaller than the Sun. It also has a fairly similar sunspot pattern.
The similarities between 40 Eridani A and the Sun make it ideal for life on the newly-discovered planet to host life and, possibly, an advanced civilization. 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.
The Search Continues
"Spock served on the starship Enterprise, whose mission was to seek out strange new worlds, a mission shared by the Dharma Planet Survey," stated Gregory Henry, one of the lead authors of the study.
The Dharma Planet Survey is designed to detect low-mass planets around nearby stars. It started in 2016 and will be in operation until 2020. The mission is looking for planets in 150 stars within 16 light-years away from Earth.
The new planet is the closest super-Earth that is orbiting a Sun-like star. HD 26965, according to researchers, can be seen with the naked eye on a clear night.
The discovery will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, but the paper can already be read via arxiv.org.