Oct 01 2017

Tau Ceti exoplanets, new information.

Published by at 9:24 am under Astronomy,T-Space

So it seems that Tau Ceti — a sun-like star just shy of twelve light-years from here — has exoplanets. Through a pretty creative application of mathematics and modeling to observations of the star, astronomers teased out signal from the noise in the data and initially (in December, 2012) thought they’d found five planets (plus a lot of dust) in the system, labeled Tau Ceti b through f (a is always reserved for the primary, the star itself). All of them several times larger than Earth, but probably not gas giants. (The star may have gas giants, but far enough out to make them too hard to detect with current instruments.)

This past August (2017), however, the estimates were revised. The data suggests only four planets, with b, c and d (the former inner three) being replaced by g and h (the labeling is purely chronological by discovery date). Both of these are too close to the star to be habitable.

Tau Ceti III (officially, Tau Ceti e currently), however, is within the Habitable Zone, where water could be liquid. Good thing, too, because that’s where I put it back in 2011 when I wrote The Chara Talisman. Unfortunately, it also turns out to be a “super-Earth”, coming in an anywhere from about 3.2 to 4.6 times the mass of Earth. I have several chapters set on Skead (as I call Tau Ceti III) in the upcoming The Eridani Convergence, although not all that mass is in the planet (it has a large moon, too).

The gravity is higher than Earth’s (in the 1.3-1.5 gee range) but not intolerably so. It does increase the escape velocity significantly, but warp ship pilots have a trick up their sleeves for dealing with that. I’m not sure what it does for the coffee crop, though. 😉

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