FORGET the Mayan apocalypse and little green men from Mars: Alien invaders may be living as little as 12 light years away – and they may have already visited.
Tau Ceti – the closest star of a type similar to our own Sun – has been found to have at least five planets orbiting it. Scientists say one of those planets sits neatly in the “goldilocks” habitable zone.
And if you think the name sounds familiar, you’re right. The star features in many works of science fiction, from the movie Barbarella to episodes of Star Trek and novels from Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.
The announcement comes as archaeologists announce the discovery of “alien” skulls – right at the height of the Mayan apocalypse and Starchild conspiracy theory frenzies.
The skulls, actually from humans belonging to a culture which deliberately distorted the shapes of heads from birth, are being exhumed near a village called Onavas in Mexico.
Dated as about 1000 years old, one skull in particular has the elongated cone shape which features so often in science fiction depictions of alien life.
Director of the research project Cristina Moreno of Arizona State University says, “Cranial deformation in Mesoamerican cultures was used to differentiate one social group from another and for ritual purposes.”
So are we at risk from invasion from Tau Ceti?
No. And there’s evidence to back it up.
In the 1960s, the budding SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) program monitored the star closely for artificial radio signals.
It came up blank.
Tau Ceti is not a bright star, but it is close enough to be seen at night with the naked eye. At 12 light years, it’s virtually around the corner in celestial terms.
Tau Ceti’s five planets are also more like our own system than most other solar systems discovered so far: Their sizes are on the smaller end of the scale – between two and six times bigger than the Earth. The goldilocks planet is about four times bigger than Earth and orbits its star in a 168-day year.