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Babylon 5

Babylon 5: Epsilon Eridani

An astronomical look at on the location of spacecenter Babylon 5


Update: This article on Epsilon Eridani and other stars orbited by planets is quoted from CNN-news, August 7 2000 (http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/space/08/07/space.planets/index.html)


Scientists reveal nine new planets


MANCHESTER, England -- Astronomers have revealed details of nine previously unknown planets orbiting stars relatively close to Earth. [...]

Giant planets

None of the planets have ever been seen by humans, but scientists know they exist because of the gravitational pull they exert on the stars they orbit and the subsequent detectable effect they have on the light the stars emit. [...] In separate discoveries, a team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, U.S. said they had found three new planets, all gas giants similar to Jupiter.

Unusual orbit

They have also discovered a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani which could provide answers to questions about the existence of life on other planets.

Dr. William Cochran of the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory said: "Detecting a planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani -- a star very near to our own sun -- is like finding a planet in our own backyard." Geoff Marcy, a University of California professor, said that while most of the planets in our solar system move in nearly circular orbits, the new planet at Epsilon Eridani has an oblong orbit, as do most of the other newly discovered planets.

Earth's circular orbit provides a relatively stable environment that balances out the extremes of cooling and heating experienced on the surfaces of planets with oblong orbits. Marcy said: "It may be that life here is possible because of the circular orbit. It's a very exciting discovery because ... the star itself is the closest star for which a planet has ever been discovered," he added. "It's only 10 light years away. In the next 100 or 200 years, it will be one of the first stars humans visit." he said. [...]



My say: (from 1998)

Why did JMS choose Epsilon Eridani of all stars? (my humble guess)

One of the ways astronomers are trying to find out about possible planets is analysing irregularities of a star's proper motion, which are expected to be caused by some kind of invisible "companion", which might turn out to be another smaller darker sun - or a planet.

As early as in the 1960s several stars have been subject of such analyses, and a few of them were suspected of having a planet. There had even been rumours published about two of those hypothetical planets being habitable, since the stars concerned additionally were of the kind similar to our sun. One of these two was Epsilon Eridani.


What is known about this star?

  • The name "Epsilon Eridani" says it's the fifth (epsilon is the 5th letter of the greek alphabet) brightest star in the constellation of "River Eridanus".
  • Compared to our sun it shines with about the same luminosity, still Epsilon is a bit colder and therefore orange. Epsilon's distance from the Solar System is 10.8 lightyears (unlike the statements in some B5-FAQ-files).
  • In the '60s, some guys from planet Earth had tried very hard to recieve radio messages from Epsilon's possible planet to prove it was inhabited. (But Draal's predecessor unfortunately had not payed his telephone bill in those days and was not able to answer!) :-(


Try soothing your withdrawal symptoms during the B5-hiatus by at least...

...watching Epsilon Eridani in the sky:

Hey, I've found it!: Eridanus is a southern constellation situated next to the constellation of Orion. Orion is quite well-known, since it is bright and easily recognizable, whereas Eridanus mainly consists of a huge number of widespread dim stars close to the horizon, therefore it is not fully visible from the northern hemisphere. The best time to see it from there is autumn or winter.

I tried to map the constellations to give you a picture:

Orion is marked with o, Eridanus is marked with *. The V points at Epsilon in whose orbit B5 used to be patiently waiting for new thrilling adventures before it was ruthlessly blown up to tiny bits one night, unsuspecting at sleep in the dark quiet peaceful sky, in the middle of a beautiful dream, just when it believed everything would turn out just fine in the end and then *WHAM* there it went like an am I straying from the subject never mind.

Please make sure the window is big enough, otherwise this (a-hum!) great picture will get wrapped and messed up, and please do use a monospaced font, or everything will be distorted beyond recognition, and we don't want that, do we.


o                                                    B5!           *
         o                                            *  
       o                                          *                       *    
     o                  *  *                     *
        o       *                  *                                     *
              o *                                                    *
 o                                                          *   *
                                  *             *

(the rest of the constellation usually is below the horizon of the northern hemisphere)


Um, hey... If you managed to find the place using THIS map, then please tell me -- You must be an astronomical genius! ;-)