Tau Ceti Planets

December 20th, 2012

One of two relatively nearby solitary sun-like stars I like to use in my science fiction to host alien worlds is Tau Ceti (the other is Epsilon Eridani).  Recently we had news of Alpha Centauri B hosting a terrestrial world, and now on the heels of that news comes Tau Ceti:

Astronomers estimate the Tau Ceti planets to be two to six times bigger than Earth. One of them, with five times the Earth’s mass, lies in the star’s “habitable zone”.

I recently wrote about writing science fiction in the age of exoplanet discovery and warned people (myself included!) about this:

“If you do pick a relatively nearby, older F, G, or K star that could plausibly have an Earth-like planet in an Earth-like orbit with time enough to have evolved life and an alien civilization (e.g. popular candidates are Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti, etc.), know that they are being scrutinized by astronomers and are risky in some ways.  I’d be surprised if they didn’t all have planetary systems, but damned if I’d put my money on what they’re like.”

Well, damn, if I had, someone would be paying up already now, just weeks later!  Sometimes science moves fast!

And in related news, I’ve sold a story to an anthology of stories set on confirmed planets discovered by the Kepler mission.  In this case, we know that the planets are there and something about them, and the writing requires a lot of research to get details correct.  I picked Kepler 42d.  Of course, speculation is required and there’s a risk, even a likelihood, many details will be wrong and shown to be wrong in the near future.  Kind of like writing about Mars or Venus in the first part of the 20th century.  They’re interesting and you have to use those settings, but tough to get right.  Anyway, I’ll post again when the anthology is available.



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