Project Orion Destination 2: Epsilon Eridani

The Sun and all of the stars within a dozen light-years away from us.

Epsilon Eridani (a.k.a. 18 Eridani) (10.5 light-years away)

Epsilon Eridani was the closest known star to have an exoplanet until the discovery of Alpha Centauri Bb.  I first learned about Epsilon Eridani in December 2007 when I bought a copy of the December 2007 issue of Astronomy Magazine and I was excited.

It was once believed that Epsilon Eridani had life on it but further research revealed Epsilon Eridani to only be about 800 million years old.  Epsilon Eridani is way too young to have evolved any complex life let alone any intelligent life.  However, Epsilon Eridani has the molecules of life and conditions right to start life on either a young Earth-like planet orbiting closer in in the habitable zone or on a Titan-like moon circling the gas giant Epsilon Eridani B which at closest approach to its star is still father from its start than the outer edge of its star's habitable zone.  If there is any life currently living at Epsilon Eridani, it would be primitive and microbial at best.

A scale comparison between Epsilon Eridani (left) and our Sun (right)

This is an actual infrared image taken of Epsilon Eridani and the circumstellar disc surrounding it with a scale representation of Pluto's orbit to the bottom right corner of the image.  There is no higher resolution of this image and the tiny white five-pointed star shape in the middle marks the location of Epsilon Eridani A itself.

Below is a computer generated image with a boxed illustration of the debris disk surrounding Epsilon Eridani.  Outside the box is a computer illustration of the area inside the debris disk and the orbit of Epsilon Eridani B.

Epsilon Eridani is a K2 main sequence orange dwarf star and is slightly smaller and less luminous than our Sun.

A computer rendering of the Debris disk around Episilon Eridani and zooming into the orbit of Epsilon Eridani B

Epsilon Eridani is still the closest known gas giant outside our solar system and is 50% more massive than Jupiter.  The hope with this gas giant in its very eccentric orbit around its star is that it could harbor Titan-like moons which may contain the seeds of life on their surface.  ity is most likely to date than any future interstellar missions to Epsilon Eridani would go to a Titan-like moon orbiting Epsilon Eridani B.

An artist rendering of Epsilon Eridani B with a hypothetical moon.