Tau Ceti has long been a favorite of science fiction writers. One of the closest and most similar stars to our own, planets orbiting Tau Ceti have shown up in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and The Next Generation. The system was the setting for ’60s camp classic Barbarella (Bar-bar-barella), and over the decades a score of movies, TV shows, comics, and games have been set there. The star itself was the subject of 1960’s Project Ozma, one of the first searches for exterrestrial life. Alas, not only did scientists not find any exterrestrial life around Tau Ceti, they didn’t even find any planets.
Astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire have discovered five potential planets orbiting Tau Ceti, one of which, Tau Ceti e, exists in the “goldilocks zone,” or the place where life as we know it could theoretically exist. Another planet, Tau Ceti f, might be in the goldilocks zone as well, albeit on the edge of it.
Tau Ceti e is over four times the size of Earth, and according to the University of Hertfordshire’s Mikko Tuomi is probably not a planet with a “rocky surface“; it may be a “water world” instead.
It’s not confirmed yet that the planets actually are planets, as the data from the study still needs to be extensively reviewed. (Yay, scientific method!) However, assuming for a moment that Tau Ceti even has one planet, the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Steve Vogt notes that:
“This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets. They are everywhere, even right next door.”
Road trip, anyone?
(via: New Scientist)