Epsilon Eridani is one of the more northerly stars of Eridanus.
Many stars may be referred to in fictional works for their metaphorical or mythological associations, or else as bright points of light in the sky of the Earth, but not as locations in space or the centers of planetary systems.
The constellation Eridanus flows north and south in the night sky, and Epsilon Eridani is one of its more northerly stars (see map), which allows it to be seen from most of the Earth's surface. However, because of its unprepossessing appearance in the sky, and its want of a "good" traditional name to supplement its esoteric Bayer designation, Epsilon Eridani has rarely if ever been used in a general sense, either in traditional mythologies or in the arts and literature that draw inspiration from them.
The star's popularity as a subject of science fiction stems not from its general cultural resonance, but from the astronomical data:
Its proximity, ~10.5 light-years distant
Its similarity to the Sun, ~0.82 M☉, spectral type K
Its technical-sounding name, in this context a benefit rather than a detriment
Its demonstrated capacity to host a family of planets, with at least one confirmed
Illustration of the relative sizes of Epsilon Eridani, a small orange star (left) and the Sun (right)
There follow references to Epsilon Eridani as a location in space or the center of a planetary system, categorized by genre.
Dorsai! (1960, also published as The Genetic General), and other novels in the unfinished Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson. Donal Graeme, a warrior extraordinaire from the mercenary homeworld Dorsai, and second incarnation of the series' evolutionary superman, launches his meteoric military career with service in several police actions on the vividly drawn planets Harmony and Association lying under the small orange Epsilon Eridani sun (see graphic).
"Conquest by Default" (1968), a short story by Vernor Vinge originally published in Analog and later included in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (2001). An alien civilization native to Epsilon Eridani II (the planet Miki) arrives in full force at the Solar System to place the third %wrlyg Support Fleet in a parking orbit high above the Earth, their looming presence decidedly intimidating thanks to a significant edge in technology. The Mikin culture is anarchic, acquisitive, cosmopolitan, and wildly diverse. In the story, as told by Scholar Ron Melmwn (a Mikin anthropologist who establishes tentative inter-species rapport with his human counterparts, professor Dahlmann and his daughter Mary), culture shock abounds as men and women interact with visitors who are bent on immigration, trade—and maybe exterminating the human race.
"Singularity" (1978), a short story by Mildred Downey Broxon. A scientific team monitors the last days of the intelligent but radically alien tribes of Epsilon Eridani's frigid second planet, Mancken's World, as a wandering stellar black hole finds its way through the star's planetary system. The hole makes a feast of the gas giant fifth planet but passes nowhere near Mancken's; however on its close encounter with ε Eridani itself, it will raise a storm of huge planet-scouring flares. The natives, whose prescient mythology has left them not unprepared for the event, calmly await the apocalypse along with a lone abandoned—and fearful—human observer.
Foundation's Edge (1982) and Robots and Empire (1985), two novels by Isaac Asimov. In these transitional novels between Asimov's Robot novels and his later-set Galactic Empire novels of the Foundation series, the planet Comporellon of Epsilon Eridani (named BaleyWorld after Elijah Baley's son Bentley in Robots and Empire) was the first non-Spacer extraterrestrial planet settled by Earthmen, in the second wave of stellar emigration after the events of Robots of Dawn.
Starburst (1982), a novel by Frederik Pohl. A crew of superb human specimens is sent on what they believe is mankind's first voyage to a planet in another star system. Dr. Dieter von Knefhausen knows better—for there is no planet, no place to go, and no place from which to return. In a fabrication recalling the supposedly fake NASA Moon landings of an earlier century Knefhausen has planned it that way. However, by the end of the tale, humans really do reach the stars, as the protagonist Jeron "... [brings] the fleet of golden globes to the third planet of Epsilon Eridani."
Eon (1985), a novel by Greg Bear. The Solar System is visited by the Stone, a Big Dumb Object[note 1] that appears to be an artifact sent backward in time from a future human civilization. Records left aboard by the futurians suggest that in their remote past—the Earth's present—the asteroid starship, called by them the Thistledown, was dispatched to Epsilon Eridani to found a new home for humankind[note 2] following the devastation of the Earth in a nuclear holocaust, an account that causes understandable present-day consternation. However the Thistledown never fulfilled the mission, instead getting whip-snapped into an alternate universe immediately upon the activation of the Way, an endless jump street her builders somehow managed to embed within her finite confines.
Dragonsdawn (1988) is a prequel story from the Dragonriders of Pern (1967-2003) 23-book series written by Anne McCaffrey. Colonists from Earth settle on a far away planet with limited resources to create an agrarian utopia and recover mentally and physically from a devastating interplanetary war. When disaster strikes and no help is coming from their home planet, and their technology is deteriorating, they must find a way to combat the skyborne threat without technology. Kitti Ping Yung, a biologist specially trained in the "Eridani technique," and one of the only humans to ever be trained by the Eridani, was a member of the colony to engineer Terran farm animals to adapt to their new planet. She uses her skills to bio-engineer a small planetary native flying creature into "dragons," a human-friendly species able to meet the threat in mid-air.
The Stones of Nomuru (1988) and The Venom Trees of Sunga (1992), novels in the Viagens Interplanetarias series written by L. Sprague de Camp, with collaboration by Catherine Crook de Camp. Kukulkan, a planet in the Epsilon Eridani system, is inhabited by an ancient civilization of intelligent reptilian creatures that has plateaued at a swords-and-steam level of technology. The "Kooks" are honest, honor-bound, and dull in personality; in both novels, the planet serves as the setting for a number of more or less conventional pre-industrial adventures.
Starquake (1989), a novel by Robert Forward. Dragon's Egg, a neutron star, has wandered into the vicinity of the Solar System and into the ken of Earth scientists. It has some "dazzling" statistics: a surface gravity 67 billion times that of the Earth, soaring mountains as high as a few inches, ruinous starquakes, and tiny intelligent inhabitants whose life processes are accelerated over ours by a factor of almost half a million. Over a period of a day, human observers inadvertently introduce the rudiments of civilization, and within a man's lifetime the "immensely enjoyable" alien cheela have lived a whole history, progressing even to interstellar exploration and leaving the secrets of FTL travel stashed in a conspicuous landmark on a planet of Epsilon Eridani—as a reward for a humanity enterprising enough to get there.
Shivering World (1991), a novel by Kathy Tyers. Dr. Graysha Brady-Phillips is suffering from a genetic disease that causes early death. When she is offered a position on the newly terraformed Goddard, a refuge from the ecological ruin of the Earth where the average life span exceeds 150 years, she leaps at the chance; the colonists' radical—and illegal—science just might be her only hope for a cure. The world Goddard is accompanied in Epsilon Eridani orbit by the older artificial habitat Copernicus, ensconced in one of the planet's stable LaGrange points. But whole planets are better: "On broader worlds like this—he squinted towards the red sun his people had once called Eps Eridani—a wiser humanity might start again..."
Worldwar (1994–1996), a tetralogy of novels written by Harry Turtledove. In this revised history, an Earth in the throes of World War II is invaded by a fleet of starships assembled for the purpose by The Race. Only three times in its 50,000-year history has this expansionist species of reptilian aliens organized such an armada, each time with the goal of subduing another civilization: the Rabotev (inhabitants of Epsilon Eridani), the Halessi, and now humanity. However, the invaders are in for a surprise, as their most recent intelligence on the Earth dates from the Middle Ages. Alternate world stories are a specialty of historian Turtledove, whose "thorough understanding of his source material gracefully infiltrates the fun and fantastication."
Echoes of Honor (1998), a novel in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. The Havenite Navy launches a devastating barrage of simultaneous surprise attacks on Manticore and her allies. Lester Tourville, in command of the task force attacking Zanzibar, plans a risky maneuver to knock out its orbital installations—but if any of his missiles hit the planet, there'll be hell to pay: "... violation of the Epsilon Eridani Edict’s ban on indiscriminate planetary bombardment was the one thing guaranteed to bring the Solarian League Navy down on any star nation like a hammer." The prohibitions in the Edict stem from the Epsilon Eridani Incident, an early space war atrocity entailing the mass destruction of one of the League's oldest worlds.
Helm (1998), a novel written by Steven Gould. Agatsu (あがつ, Epsilon Eridani II) is close to Earth-normal, and the rest can be done quite efficiently by tailored terraforming bacteria. The work will be completed just as the refugee ship, carrying most of what remains of Earth's devastated population, arrives to colonize her. The ship, designed for 1000 souls, will carry 4000—at the expense of almost all her cargo. But that's ok: When the bare survival of the race is at stake, such niceties as any technology past knives, ropes, and hammers would be a sheer luxury. With much ingenuity, the colonists proceed to build a civilization from scratch.
The unconfirmed planet Epsilon Eridani c as seen from a hypothetical moon. The distant star is surrounded by a faint disk of dust particles.
Factoring Humanity (1998), a novel by Robert J. Sawyer. SETI astronomers detect an artificial signal from Alpha Centauri A, the harbinger of a ten-year flood of cryptic data that protagonist Heather Davis devotes her life to deciphering. She finally succeeds, and comes upon plans for a starship that could open up interstellar contact, starting with the "Centaurs." Meanwhile, a single despairing message is received from Epsilon Eridani, easier to translate but much more alarming: "It couldn’t be plainer: biological life, based on carbon, being supplanted by silicon-based artificial intelligence ..." And it turns out that the AI "overminds" of Earth and Alpha Centauri are already in contact. Is humanity on the threshold of an era of limitless exploration—or of extinction?
Yellowstone, home to the universe's most advanced human civilization, and a focal point of the series as a whole (see graphic). During the so-called Belle Epoque (ending with the nanovirus Melding Plague), Yellowstone society is centered in the Glitter Band and in Chasm City.
Halo: The Fall of Reach (2001) and Halo: First Strike (2003), prequel novelizations to installments of the Halo series of video games, written by Eric Nylund, and meant to provide back-stories for the popular games. The first novel begins as Covenant forces attack the planet Reach and vitrify the surface, turning its landmasses into glass. In the books (and games) the Epsilon Eridani system hosts a total of six inhabited planets: Reach itself, which had been a stronghold of humanity, second only to Earth, Tribute, Beta Gabriel, Circumstance, Tantalus, and Epsilon Eridani IV (see Halo, below).
Artist's conception showing two dust clouds, multiple rocky bodies, and a planet (left) orbiting Epsilon Eridani (right)
Vorpal Blade (2007), a novel by John Ringo with Travis S. Taylor. The former SSBN Nebraska has been converted, using mostly garage mechanics and baling wire, into a warp ship ready to go "out there": the ASS Vorpal Blade. Due to an accident, the Epsilon Eridani System becomes the ship's first destination.
"Loki's Realm" (2007), a novella by C. Sanford Lowe with G. David Nordley in the July/August issue of Analog that also forms part of their novel The Black Hole Project (Brief Candle Press, 2012): An expedition is sent to the Epsilon Eridani system to launch a massive iron rod at near light speed to collide with three other such rods launched from three other star systems to a central location where they will implode in hopes of making microscopic black hole. The expedition personnel must overcome an unexpectedly active impact environment stirred up by the eccentric giant planet, "Loki" (in the story), and the death of their expedition's leader.
Implied Spaces (2008), a novel by Walter Jon Williams. It is the epoch of the technological singularity. Humanity numbers in the hundreds of billions, but only a few million remain in the solar system. Many have traveled on generation starships to establish colonies around other stars, such as Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, and Epsilon Eridani, which was a "prime candidate for settlement—a young star with planets, ... surrounded by a cold dust cloud which [someday] would have congealed into an inner system of rocky bodies..." (see graphic) However, the star is unstable, with energy levels that flare and fade unpredictably, and it undergoes a "stellar event"—not quite a nova; more like a "burp"—that is nonetheless enough to burn to a crisp every last colonist.
"Flight 404" (2012), a novella by Simon Petrie. A distress call from the Bougainvillaea, a large interstellar passenger vessel, has been detected within Epsilon Eridani's planetary system, two hundred million kilometers from the system's main terrestrial planet, Ashé. There is, however, no material trace of the vessel in the indicated location. Charmain Mertz, a transgender pilot raised on Ashé, but who left because of victimization within its conservatively religious society, returns to her home system hoping to learn the secret of the ship's disappearance, and the fate of her sister, a passenger.
Attenuation: Letters from the Man in the Moon (2014) by Keith Basham, where Epsilon Eridani is the target of a half million years of attempts at colonization, while a lone pilot known only as 'Larry' goes about the business of fast-tracking the system's accretion process, rendering habitable worlds and a more Sol-like star from Epsilon Eridani. Larry does his best to keep in touch with his home world, but finds that his very existence has been long forgotten, though the star itself has been rechristened in his name. By the time he is done, There are apparently four Earth-like planets constructed in the habitable zone, with one working colony overseen by Larry himself, whose ship serves as that planet's moon.
Fantastic Four stories published by Marvel Comics prior to 1969 claimed that the destination of Reed Richards' historic rocket flight was the Moon, but the Moon landing in the "real" world rendered such a trip redundant; What If #36 (December 1982) (prior to the turning point which marks the story's Earth as an alternate Earth) altered continuity by revealing that the project's destination had instead been the Epsilon Eridani system.
The Tilbert trilogy of novels and their associated novellas (2015), plus the offshoot series of Bossley novellas (2016), by the author Gerard J Roffey, use Eridani as the planet on which an earth-like civilization exists. The stories are time-travel, science fiction based, with a touch of humor.
The Bobiverse Series, by Dennis E. Taylor (2016– Present); uses the system as one of the possible destinations for human colonies, to be explored by unmanned probes. The system is posited to have one earth-like planet that is only suitable for human colonization if habitation domes are used. One of the Bob replicant clones ("Bill") embarks on a long-range terraforming project, and uses the system itself for scientific research in general.
Eridani Resurrection, (2018) by J.K. (Keith) Phillips is a science fiction novel that describes man's first extraterrestrial contact with the aliens on EE4, the fourth planet in the 11-planet Epsilon Eridani star system. The crew of the United States Spacecraft Hyperion, under the command authority of the United States Space Force, make five round-trip journeys between Earth and EE4, where they find a tribal society ruled by the ruthless Vstalen. U.S. interest in the planet is primarily driven by its supply of a highly efficient fuel, a few hundred tons of which can power whole civilizations, as well as by spiritual developments among its natives that closely parallel the events of the Gospel.
Tears of Eridanus, (2020) by Curtis Wilbur describes humanity's first interstellar colonization effort, under the backdrop of an unfolding global climate change disaster. The story is told in three interwoven parts: The journey of a memory stick containing the plans for a starship through the eastern United States as it reels from a catastrophic sea-level rise; The journey of the starships Eritrea and Somalia as they make the 500-year trip to the Epsilon Eridani system and the earth-like world 'Sibelius'; And the journey of two villagers from the Campe' settlement as they try to find the second colony, whose location has been lost for 2 generations.
Film and television
Star Trek (1966– ), a film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry. In some fictional reference works such as the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology and the Star Fleet Technical Manual, Epsilon Eridani has been suggested as the possible star system of the planet Vulcan, the home planet of the Vulcan race, although James Blish had earlier proposed constellation associate 40 Eridani A as the Vulcan star system. The Star Trek canon later established Vulcan's distance as consistent with that of 40 Eridani, and the authorized (but non-canonical) Star Trek book Star Trek: Star Charts identifies it as such, while Epsilon Eridani was assigned a lesser role as the location of Axanar. The 40 Eridani location is furthermore attested by Roddenberry himself and in a statement by Commander Tucker in Star Trek: Enterprise that "Vulcan is 16 light years from Earth"—as is 40 Eridani A at 16.39 ly from the Sun (compared to Epsilon Eridani at ~10.5 ly).
Babylon 5 (1994–1999), a space opera television series created by J. Michael Straczynski. This series, rife with prophecies, religious zealotry, racial tensions, social pressures and political rivalries, is centered on the eponymous Babylon 5 space station, a five-mile long O'Neill cylinder located in the Epsilon Eridani star system at the fifth Lagrangian point between the fictional planet Epsilon III and its moon. In this fictional universe, Epsilon III is the site of an ancient alien machine-city - known as the Great Machine - that is more than once instrumental to the plot of the show that revolves around galactic-level wars and politics.
Other film and television
Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (1984), a Japanese anime series written by Jinzō Toriumiet al. and directed by Yasuo Hasegawa. The world of Glorie was selected for colonization after a catastrophic nuclear holocaust rendered the Earth uninhabitable. Similar to the home planet in size and atmospheric conditions, Glorie nonetheless presented a challenging natural environment: With little moderating ocean cover, and an eccentric elliptical orbit around Epsilon Eridani, it suffered severe winters and heavy glaciation during its aposiderions. With extensive terraforming, Glorie has been successfully adapted for terrestrial life, and it serves as the theater for extensive military adventures—both human and mecha.
Space Precinct (1994–1995), a British television series created by Gerry Anderson. This combination of science fiction drama and police procedural is set in the year 2040 and features former NYPD detective Patrick Brogan, now a lieutenant with the Demeter City police force on the planet Altor in the Epsilon Eridani system. Brogan and his partner Jack Haldane must adjust to living in another solar system, and investigating crimes being committed by aliens as well as humans.
Space: Above and Beyond (1995–1996), a television series created by Glen Morgan and James Wong. In early 2063, The Chigsdeclare war on humanity, launching what appears to be an unprovoked first-strike against the budding interstellar colonies of Vesta and Tellus. The colonies are destroyed and their few survivors taken prisoner. Earth's first extra-solar outpost, Vesta Colony orbits Epsilon Eridani.
Virtuality (2009), a television backdoor pilot created and written by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, and directed by Peter Berg. The story is set aboard the Phaeton, Earth's first starship, on a ten-year journey to explore the nearby Epsilon Eridani star system for a habitable refuge from its moribund homeworld. To pass the time, the crew immerses themselves in an advanced virtual reality system, which broadcasts their "adventures" to a worldwide audience back home. But all is not well: Crew members become ill, they initiate unstable romantic couplings, and the VR system itself begins to display bizarre—and dramatically interesting—malfunctions.
"The Boyfriend Complexity" (2010), an episode of The Big Bang Theory, a situation comedy created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and directed by Mark Cendrowski. The series, embellished by wacky faux-scientific episode titles, concerns the eccentric doings of four hyperintelligent but socially inept scientists and their street-smart neighbor, a blonde waitress and aspiring actress. In this episode (S4:E9), Rajesh Koothrappali is remotely controlling a telescope in Hawaii, watching for varying luminosity as evidence of an extrasolar planet orbiting the star.
Offworld (2017), a low budget Welsh feature film. The film tells of a doomed colonisation mission from Earth. The crew crash land on Epsilon Eridani B and try to survive against a number of hazards.
The Orville (2018), a television series created by Seth MacFarlane. Captain Ed Mercer is the commanding officer of the Epsilon Eridani Outpost in the alternate timeline where he and Kelly Grayson never went on their second date (and thus were never married).
Epsilon Eridani is one of the six star systems in the Star Trader board game (1982) set in SPI's Universe role-playing game. The others are Beta Hydri, Gamma Leporis, Mu Herculis, Sigma Draconis, and Tau Ceti.
BattleTech (1984), a wargame and related products launched by The FASA Corporation. Epsilon Eridani is one of the inhabited worlds closest to Terra. Originally a member of the Terran Hegemony, it passed into Capellan control after the collapse of the Star League. In subsequent years it changed hands multiple times as the result of various wars and treaties.
2300 AD (1986), a role-playing game designed by the Game Designers' Workshop. Dukou (Epsilon Eridani I), a habitable but glacier-bound world, is the location of the Manchurian semi-penal colony Xixiang. In the game, the Epsilon Eridani system is the main point of access to the Latin systems.
Battlelords of the 23rd Century (1990–1998), a role-playing game designed by Lawrence R. Sims and published by Optimus Design Systems. There are many alien races in the Battlelords universe, but twelve are presented in the basic rulebook and form the basis for the Galactic Alliance. One of these is the race of Eridani Swordsaints, who inhabit the cold methane world Eridine in orbit around Epsilon Eridani.
Frontier: Elite II (1993), Frontier: First Encounters (1995) and Elite: Dangerous (2013) computer games written by David Brabenet al.. The planets of the Epsilon Eridani system are dedicated to luxury-class and adult tourism, primarily directed towards the terraformed planet New California. The system does not fall under Federal laws, despite being deep in the core of the Federation. As a result, narcotics and slavery are both legal commodities in a thriving commercial market. Epsilon Eridani is a major star system in the official Elite:Dangerous novel 'And Here The Wheel'.
Independence War (1997), a space combat computer game developed by Particle Systems and published by Infogrames. In the game, the player takes the role of a 23rd-century spaceship captain in the Earth Commonwealth Navy, commander of the Dreadnaught. The primary antagonists are rebellious insurgents called the Indies, a group distinguished by their elaborately and colourfully painted ships; it is the captain's job to bring them back under the control of Earth. The headquarters of the Indies lies somewhere in Epsilon Eridani.
Transcendence, a PC video game created by George Moromisato. The game's main storyline spans several star systems, the first of which is Epsilon Eridani.
Halo (2001– ), a video game franchise created by Bungie and published by Microsoft Studios. The planet Reach (Epsilon Eridani II) is a UNSC military stronghold, a shipyard, and the site of the SPARTAN-II super-soldier project which trained the series' role-protagonist John-117. The planet was glassed by Covenant forces from orbit and made largely uninhabitable in 2552, as a part of the enemy's final campaign to subdue the Earth. The game Halo: Reach is plotted around these events and the planet's eventual destruction (see Halo: The Fall of Reach, above). After the war with the Covenant, reterraforming efforts had finished by 2589.
Race for the Galaxy (2007), a card game designed by Thomas Lehmann and published by Rio Grande Games. Players lay down cards representing worlds and economic development initiatives to build galactic civilizations. Epsilon Eridani is one of the start worlds in the base game, depicted as a dwarf planet orbiting the star inside the radius of one of the system's two asteroid belts.
Face of Mankind (2009), a MMORPG designed by Marko Dieckmann and published by Nexeon Technologies. Players interact with each other in a freeform universe, comprising multiple locations spread across various planets. One of these is an ice planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani.
Extrasolar (2014), an alternate reality web based game created by Lazy 8 Studios. Players control a rover exploring the surface of the third planet "Epsilon Prime" in the Epsilon Eridani system.
Epsilon Eridani is referred to as a location in space or the center of a planetary system unusually often in fiction. For a list containing many stars and planetary systems that have a less extensive list of references, see Stars and planetary systems in fiction.
^The association of a huge asteroid-sized mass of stone with an insubstantial wisp of fluff may at first blush seem like an oxymoron. Note however that, in terrestrial ecosystems, the biological function of bits of thistledown (see graphic) is to waft life-bearing seeds across gulfs of space and to deposit them in more or less hospitable remote locations where they might grow—quite similar to the original cosmic purpose of the Thistledown.
^Boyle, Alan (2009). The case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 191. ISBN 0-470-50544-3.
^Janson, M; et al. (September 2008), "A comprehensive examination of the ε Eridani system. Verification of a 4 micron narrow-band high-contrast imaging approach for planet searches", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 488 (2): 771–780, arXiv:0807.0301, Bibcode:2008A&A...488..771J, doi:10.1051/0004-6361:200809984
^Schmitt, J H M M; et al. (February 1996), "The extreme-ultraviolet spectrum of the nearby K Dwarf ε Eridani", The Astrophysical Journal, 457: 882, Bibcode:1996ApJ...457..882S, doi:10.1086/176783