In 1968, science fiction and fantasy author James Blish adapted a set of eight Star Trek: The Original Series episodes into a collection of short stories published under the title Star Trek 2. The collection included the Harlan Ellison story “The City on the Edge of Forever,” widely regarded as one of the best episodes of the original series. In one of the stories in Star Trek 2, Blish came up with a hypothetical location for planet Vulcan, home of the logical, pointy-eared Vulcans.
Blish’s chosen location for Vulcan was 40 Eridani, a triple star system in the constellation of Eridanus some just 16 light-years from our own Sun. In 1991, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry admitted that the location had become part of the Star Trek canon. In a strange twist of life imitating art, astronomers have now found a planet exactly where Blish and Roddenbery said Vulcan was.
The research which led to the discovery of the real-life Vulcan was led by University of Florida astronomer Jian Ge. Jian and other astronomers have been monitoring around 150 nearby stars for planets as part of the Dharma Planet Survey, a search for rocky habitable planets. Using the DEFT Telescope in Arizona, Jian and colleagues found a super-Earth just 16 light-years away orbiting the star HD 26965 – the price location for Vulcan in the Star Trek canon.
One of the researchers who contributed to the discovery says that “HD 26965 may be an ideal host star for an advanced civilization” due to its size and distance from its host star. The University of Florida’s Bo Ma, lead author of the paper outlining the discovery, says that unlike most of the host stars of known exoplanets, “anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home.”
Is it time to turn our search for extraterrestrial life into a search for Spock? Let’s hope not. The Search for Spock was terrible. I’m more of a Voyage Home fan.