NASA To Search For SpockBy Michelle
May 24, 2007 - 8:01 PM
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is searching for a planet in the 40 Eridani system, where Star Trek posits that Spock's homeworld Vulcan is in orbit.
The PlanetQuest web site explained that SIM PlanetQuest will look for a planet around the orange dwarf star 40 Eridani A, which is slightly cooler than Earth's sun. Even if a planet is discovered there, it must orbit within the zone where water can exist in a liquid state in order for Earth-like life to be possible.
"I used the simulations that I have to see whether or not SIM could detect a planet around this star. And sure enough, it can," said Angelle Tanner, an astronomer at Cal Tech, the home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The PlanetQuest Podcast uses material from "Amok Time" to give background on the planet Vulcan, which has an orange-red sky on Star Trek and is hotter than Earth.
"Since the three members of the triple star system are so far away from each other...I see no reason why an Earth-mass planet would not be able to form around the primary star," added Sean Raymond of the University of Colorado, Boulder. The PlanetQuest tool could measure the thickness of a nickel in orbit near the moon, so it will be able to discover any planet the mass of Earth in the 40 Eridani system and will search for other signs of potential life, such as ozone and methane.
An artist's conception of how a planet in orbit of the dwarf star might look is here. Thanks to Mark Tyler for the links.