As a lot of you know I am an astronomer. Right now I am an amateur one studying to be a real life grown up one when I graduate.
The star system of Zeta Reticuli features heavily in UFO lore and Sci Fi (The Alien movies, Prometheus, Space Above & Beyond, The X-Files, even Star
From the alleged abduction of Barney and Betty Hill through the MJ-12 documents to Bob Lazar's "Sports Model", to Project SERPO, these two stars 39
light years away and only visible to Earth's southern hemisphere have been mentioned quite a lot. Especially by the elder statesman of modern UFOlogy,
Stanton T. Friedman.
But what do we really know about these two stars?
Well we know that both stars are in the same class as our Sun. They are very similar to it in many ways.
We also know that they are separated by each other by less than 1 light year (0.06 light years to be exact). Basically light from one star reaches the
other 3 weeks later.
If the Sun had a similar Sunlike binary companion at the same distance both stars could comfortably host an Earthike planet or two with no adverse
effects because the twin stars would be far from each other.
If a civilization existed on a planet around Zeta 2 Reticuli then Zeta 1 Reticuli would be the brightest object in the night sky.
It would probably feature in such a civilization's own myths and religions due to its brightness dominating the night sky.
From the planets of one star, the other star would be a brilliantly bright star about 30 times as bright as Venus looks in Earth’s sky and would be
visible even during the day.
Alien astronomers would have been able to detect and possibly take detailed pictures of planets around the other star with technology not even as
advanced as what we are currently using today (again, due to their close proximity to each other).
Imagine us discovering the first extrasolar planet in 1895 instead of 1995 for example!
For all that we know about these stars there is more which we don't know.
No planets have been detected around either star of Zeta Reticuli yet.
We do not know if they have any planets yet. There is no reason to believe that they are devoid of planets though because planets are a product of the
same process which forms the stars. There are likely more planets than stars in the universe. Every star you see in the sky probably has at least a
One unusual aspect of the two stars is we don't really know their age. There are two different techniques used to date a star. Usually these match up.
In the case of the stars of Zeta Reticuli they don't. So while one technique says they are around 6 to 8 billion years old (as opposed to our Solar
System 4.5 billion year old age), other studies show the two stars might actually be younger than our Sun. As young as 2 to 4 billion years old.
Both stars are also considered unusual because they have a lower luminosity than is normal for main sequence stars of their age and surface
temperature. That is, they lie below the main sequence curve on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram for newly formed stars. Most stars will evolve above
this curve as they age.
(SIDENOTE: A good sci-fi story based at Zeta Reticuli might involve an advanced civilization which uses advanced astro-engineering to keep their old
Suns young to prolong their life.)
Planetary systems around both stars of Zeta Ret. have been modeled and as I said, either or both stars could have their own system of planets of
various sizes, including one or more planets in the habitable or "goldilocks" zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of a planet.
No planets have been discovered around either Zeta 1 or Zeta 2 Reticuli yet.
An oft-repeated myth about the Zeta Reticuli system in UFO lore is that emissions from the two stars contribute to a dangerous level of background
radiation in their vicinity. The two stars are too far apart for this and this idea seems to have been dreamed up by the perpetrators of the Project
SERPO hoax ie: Richard Doty.
Another myth is that "the Greys" which supposedly hail from here have evolved their dark black eyes due to being on a planet bathed in the UV light
from two stars. Again, this simply has no basis in reality since the two stars are far enough apart, at almost 4000 times the distance of the Earth
from our Sun, that the UV flux of the other star would not be high enough for this to happen.
No planets of a Saturn size or larger have been detected orbiting close to either star which is good news if one were looking for small rocky planets
like our Earth in those types of orbits. The existence of "Hot Jupiters" or "Hot Saturns" around other stars is suspected to be the result of planet
migration during formation. As big planets move in, smaller planets like the Earth get ejected. So it is good news that those have not been detected.
(And they have been looking for them since 1996)
If Zeta 1 or Zeta 2 Reticuli have planets the size of the Earth orbiting them, and there are good reasons to believe they might since many models of
these stars formation lead to terrestrial sized planets orbiting them then they await future discovery either by something like NASA's TESS mission
due to be launched in 2017 or the European Extremely Large Telescope due to begin observations from Chile in the mid 2020s.
Until then, searches for larger Super Earth, Neptune, Saturn and Jupiter sized planets continue at present using various techniques.
In 2010, a team of astronomers announced that far-infrared wavelength observations with ESA’s Herschel space telescope showed a ring of cold dust
and ice about 100 AU across around Zeta 2 Reticuli. Almost certainly there are comet nuclei and dwarf planets, analogues of our Pluto, Eris, Makemake
and Haumea, in this ring. This debris disc is not symmetrical, a possible indication that the material is being gravitationally effected by an unseen
This debris disc also could have brought water to any rocky inner planets around Zeta Reticuli in much the same way that the Oort Cloud and Kuiper
Belts did for the early Earth.
So studying dust around these stars is important to get a gauge on just how habitable any planets we may discover there may be.
The other night the opportunity to take an image of these two stars presented itself during the course of my normal work which usually doesn't not
involve taking pretty pictures but taking data like spectra or lightcurves from a star.
So apologies for the B & W image. I may post this again with color filters. This was taken by me last night, remotely using the 1.2 meter UK Science
and Engineering Research Council's Schmidt Reflector in Australia.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the two stars of Zeta Reticuli:
Like I said I may post this again in color. In the color image you can just about make out the slight color difference between the two in the color
edit on 5-3-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)