Monday, April 29, 2013

NASA Confirms Planet Similar to DOCTOR WHO's Gallifrey

"I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous..."
-- The Tenth Doctor, DOCTOR WHO: "Voyage of the Damned"

Time War, Shmime War...The Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey exists.  Sort of.

An article in the Register states that NASA came across what it calls a "transiting circumbinary multi-planet system," which means two worlds orbiting two suns, using its Kepler telescope designed for locating planets.  The Register compares them to "Doctor Who’s Time Lord homeworld [of] Gallifrey – or alternatively the luxury-planet-builders’ planet Magrathea [from] The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy."

The fictional planet Gallifrey is located within a binary star system in the constellation of Kasterborous at "galactic coordinates ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two from galactic zero centre" some 250 million light years away from Earth.  It first appeared in the final Patrick Troughton Doctor Who story "The War Games" in 1969, where the fugitive Second Doctor was finally brought home to stand trial for stealing his Type-40 TARDIS and interfering with the time/space continuum.  The planet remained unnamed until the Jon Pertwee story "The Time Warrior" in 1973 and was later revealed to have been destroyed somehow during the events of a mysterious "Time War" first mentioned in the Christopher Eccleston story "The End of the World" in 2005.

The Register quotes Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University, who was the lead author of the study.  "Each planet transits over the primary star," said Orosz, ":giving unambiguous evidence that the planets are real."

The discovery of "Gallifrey" was first reported in January but the full study report has just been published in the journal ScienceThe new system has been named Kepler 47 and has two stars circling each other every 7.5 days.  One of them is similar in size to our sun, whereas the other is approximately one third its size.  The inner planet, Kepler-47b, is three times the size of Earth, making it the smallest known transiting circumbinary planet, and it orbits the stars every 49 days.  The second, Kepler-47c, lies in the habitable zone around the two suns.  According to the Register, Kepler-47c is "slightly larger than Uranus and circles its stars every 303 days, making it the longest transiting planet currently known.  The whole system lies about 5,000 light years away in the Cygnus constellation."

Of course, Whovians already know that the appearance of Gallifrey isn't exactly unprecedented.  After all, it did return briefly in 2009 during the final David Tennant story "The End of Time"...

Gallifrey rises!


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