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Tau Ceti

October 14, 2015

Few star systems have seen more colonies and space battles than Tau Ceti, a star that’s a dozen light-years from Earth. Yet a recent study says the system’s planets don’t appear to be in good position to sustain life.

Tau Ceti is a fairly close match to the Sun. Combined with its proximity, that’s made it a popular destination in science fiction — from the novels of Isaac Asimov to Star Trek to video games.

Tau Ceti looked like an even better target a few years ago, when astronomers discovered five possible planets in orbit around the star. And two of those planets appear to be in the habitable zone — the region where temperatures are just right for liquid water, a key ingredient for Earth-like life.

But earlier this year, researchers at Arizona State said the two planets aren’t good candidates for life.

For one thing, the planets could be made of different materials than the planets of the solar system, making them less hospitable. And one of the planets has been outside the habitable zone until recently, leaving little time for life to develop there. And finally, comets and asteroids could regularly bombard the system’s planets, decimating any life that takes hold — making Tau Ceti an unpleasant system to colonize.

Tau Ceti is in the constellation Cetus, the whale or sea monster. The star climbs into view in the east-southeast by about 10 p.m. It’s not all that bright, though, so you need a starchart to help you pick it out.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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