Scientists Katherine Laliotis and Jennifer Burt didn’t set out to anger Trekkies with their new study of exoplanets in other solar systems.
It just so happens the data pointed them and the rest of their research team to a logical — most logical — conclusion, they said.
Five years ago,
The trouble is, after a reanalysis, the new team found the discovery was likely a mistake. That’s right: They couldn’t just let Spock live long and prosper in a real world. They had to go and wipe out his home planet from existence.
“We apologize for that,” Burt told Mashable. “We’ll find other cool planets.”
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The group pored over a huge public data release to look at
One of those was 40 Eri b, the official name the original authors gave to Planet Vulcan. The new paper formally refutes it.
Planet Vulcan ‘discovered’ in 2018
In 2018, the original authors
Any rocky planet within this other Milky Way system would have
“We’ll find other cool planets.”
Credit: University of Florida
Laliotis, Burt, and the rest of the new team used
Their analysis found features indicative of
“They will look like planetary signals, but it’s actually not a planet,” said Laliotis, who was a NASA intern during the research and is now working on her doctorate at The Ohio State University. “It’s something like little spots on the surface of the star.”
It’s not known whether the original researchers who published the exoplanet discovery agree with the new analysis. Mashable’s attempts to reach the first two authors, affiliated with the University of Florida, weren’t successful.
Search for Earth-like exoplanet continues
Since word has spread of the new results, the scientists involved have gotten somewhat razzed by fans, including family members. Laliotis said her father proceeded to give her a lesson in Vulcanian “history,” explaining that the planet was headed for destruction, but that wasn’t supposed to happen for a couple more centuries.
Burt, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said her mother refused to read the article.
“My mom was a Trekkie,” she said. “She maintained this is why I’m an astronomer. She said, ‘I watched a lot of ‘Star Trek’ when I was pregnant with you, and so, clearly, that came through.'”
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Despite their findings, the search for Spock’s home can continue, Laliotis said. Though they may not have a starship Enterprise to seek it out, more sensitive instruments and detection methods in the near future may make it possible to find another smaller exoplanet in that star system — perhaps one that is more Earth-like — to rename Vulcan.
After all, if 40 Eri b’s detection were correct, it would be much too hot for life as we know it.
“There is still hope that there might be a Vulcan there,” she said. “This actually is maybe promising that there might be a better Vulcan there.”