As noted over on 80 Beats, scientists using the Spitzer space telescope have found strong evidence that Epsilon Eridani has a solar system not unlike our own, with rocky planets orbiting in the inner solar system and gas giants orbiting further out.
Science fiction writers must have breathed a collective sigh of relief, as Epsilon Eridani has been used in countless novels, short stories, TV shows, and movies as the location of more-or-less Earth like planets. Nothing dates a science fiction story like the cold hand of reality, such as when Mars was revealed to be a cratered desert with not a canal in sight, or when the clouds of Venus were shown to be concealing a lethal landscape of shattered rock, rather than lush jungle swamps.
Lee Billings has an interesting essay in SEED this month on how extraterrestrials would locate Earth from elsewhere in the universe.
“As the probe approached, gaps in the clouds far below revealed continents scattered amidst a world-girdling ocean. In a vast cosmic desert, this was an oasis. The probe sampled the atmosphere, finding abundant oxygen and traces of methane. Chemistry dictates that the two reactive gases could never coexist for long; something was replenishing them. Analyzing starlight reflected off the land, it saw regions absorbing light at wavelengths corresponding to no known non-biological process. Perhaps this was vegetation. The spacecraft also detected powerful, modulated radio emissions from the surface—almost certainly a sign of substantial technology. There was life on this planet, and at least some of it seemed intelligent.”
The probe he’s talking about is the 1990 Galileo spacecraft detecting Earth on its way to Jupiter. No mention of any guideposts set up by the gods or the 12th Cylon, but a fascinating piece nonetheless.