Trekkies Rejoice! Astronomers Have Found Spock's Home World, Planet Vulcan... Sort Of
According to a recent study led by University of Florida astronomer Jian Ge and published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, there is a newly discovered planet 16 light years away from Earth that bears a striking resemblance to one of the most iconic fictional planets in pop culture history: Planet Vulcan. For those not steeped in the culture of Star Trek, Vulcan is the home planet of Spock, a character created by Gene Roddenberry and most famously portrayed by the late actor, Leonard Nimoy.
The planet was discovered using the Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT) by Ge and fellow astronomers Matthew Muterspaugh and Gregory Henry from Tennessee State University. "The new planet is a 'super-Earth' orbiting the star HD 26965, which is only 16 light years from Earth, making it the closest super-Earth orbiting another Sun-like star," Ge said in a statement shared with Outer Places. "The planet is roughly twice the size of Earth and orbits its star with a 42-day period just inside the star's optimal habitable zone." The connections to the planet in Roddenberry's novels and the subsequent big and small screen adaptations are mainly in the planet's connection to its host star. The K-class dwarf star HD 26965 has a few other designations, including Keid and 40 Eridani A. As Henry explains, Planet Vulcan in Star Trek canon is the second planet in the 40 Eridani A system (40 Eridani A II). Back in 1991, Roddenberry and members of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics confirmed HD 26965 as the host for the fictional planet, and now the planet itself has been found.
"This star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike the host stars of most of the known planets discovered to date," said University of Florida postdoc student Bo Ma. "Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock's home." Depending on which timeline you're in, the future for Planet Vulcan is not that bright and some Vulcans don't get to live "live long and prosper." Hopefully the real-life planet diverges slightly from the path of the fictional one.