New planet could be Mr. Spock's Star Trek home world

Here's some science to go with your favorite science fiction. Elon Musk, can you get us to Vulcan?

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

Mr. Spock's home world has a basis in reality.


Turns out Vulcan, Mr. Spock's Star Trek fictional home world, has a real-world counterpart. A new survey has discovered a planet located exactly where Spock's would have been.

This all takes a little explaining for those of us who aren't planetary scholars. Back in 1991, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and three astronomers wrote a letter to Sky & Telescope magazine about where Vulcan might be located.

"The star around which Vulcan orbits was never identified in the original series or in any of the feature films based on it and so has never been officially established," they wrote. But Roddenberry's group had a candidate in mind. "We prefer the identification of 40 Eridani as Vulcan's sun."

The orange dwarf-star 40 Eridani is 4 billion years old, about the same age as our sun, they went on to say. Roddenberry and the astronomers thought that would give an intelligent civilization time to evolve -- and no one has ever denied the intelligence of Vulcans.

"Presumably Vulcan orbits the primary star, an orange main-sequence dwarf of spectral type K1," they wrote.

Now, a survey called the Dharma Planet Survey has discovered that 40 Eridani does indeed have a planet, one that's eight times the mass of Earth. 

"The world is a super-Earth, the most common type of planet in the galaxy (though a type that's missing from our solar system)," Sky & Telescope reports. 

Sadly, the planet is likely too hot to support Spock's family and friends, but fans found it a fun discovery anyway. One Twitter user tweeted at the cast and crew of The Big Bang Theory, writing, "I hope the discovery of the Vulcan home world (sort of) can make it into an episode of season 12."

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