In February of 2017, a team of European astronomers announced the discovery
of a seven-planet system orbiting the nearby star TRAPPIST-1. Aside from
the fact that all seven planets were rocky, there was the added bonus of
three of them orbiting within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone. Since that time,
multiple studies have been conducted to determine whether or not any of
these planets could be habitable.
What’s up with the boring names?
I propose we call them Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl. The most habitable is Kurt, because he’s so magnetic.
As a kid I remember reading about “Vulcan,” which people used to think existed between Mercury and the Sun but always orbited on the opposite side.
Completely fictional, of course.
Vulcan made a comeback as the fictional home of Spock in Star Trek. It was said by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to be orbiting around 40 Eridani (also called HD 26965), a triple star system in the constellation of Eridanus “the river” in the southern hemisphere just 16 light years distant. In September 2018, astronomers at the University of Florida in Gainesville found a “super-Earth” exoplanet orbiting exactly where Vulcan was said to be.
In their presentation, the researchers jokingly compared the planet to Hoth – the icy planet made famous in one of the “Star Wars” movies, when Luke Skywalker’s steed (a fictional lizard species called a Tauntaun) dies and he must stay warm by burrowing into its intestines.
Yay, science. And only six light years away!
Which, since Alpha Centauri at four light years away only takes 137,000 years to get to, would only take…er…just a few ten thousand more years…Hmm…