Alpha Centauri in fiction
As one of the brightest stars in Earth's night sky, and the closest known star system to the Sun, the Alpha Centauri system plays an important role in many fictional works of literature, popular culture, television, and film.
Alpha Centauri, a double star system with the binary designation Alpha Centauri AB, is the brightest visible object in the southern constellation Centaurus. Its component stars are Alpha Centauri A (the primary—somewhat larger and brighter than the Sun) and Alpha Centauri B (the secondary—slightly smaller and dimmer). These stars are of spectral classes G2V (as is the Sun) and K1V respectively; in the former case there is an obvious model and potential for planets capable of supporting complex biospheres, and in the latter, as it turns out, an even stronger probability of a stable habitable zone that is well suited for life. Alpha Centauri C (Proxima Centauri—a late-discovered red dwarf, and the closest known star to the Solar System) appears to be gravitationally bound to the AB system although at a considerable distance. The collection of three stars together is called Alpha Centauri AB-C.
Alpha Centauri is commonly referred to as Rigil Kentaurus (Arabic: رجل أقنطورس Rijl Qantūris), meaning foot of the centaur—compare Rigel in Orion—and also as Toliman (Arabic: الظلمان al-Zulmān), or the ostriches.
General uses of Alpha Centauri
Many stars may be referred to in fictional works for their metaphorical or mythological associations, or else as bright points of light in the sky of the Earth, but not as locations in space or the centers of planetary systems.
However, because Alpha Centauri is only visible from the remote south, it lacks the rich historical net of metaphorical, mythological, and sky-gazing associations, predating the scientific era, which have commonly propelled purely artistic references in the Western tradition to stars such as Aldebaran and Sirius that blaze brightly in northern skies. Although it makes plentiful appearances in science fiction, Alpha Centauri is rarely if ever used in a general sense.
- "Homo Sol" (1940), short story by Isaac Asimov. Having discovering the secret of hyperspace travel, humanity dedicates its first interstellar mission to a successful landing on a planet of Alpha Centauri. This achievement entitles Earth to membership in the pan-galactic federation of hominid civilizations—except for its independent and warlike nature. A Federation proto-psychohistorian is eventually able to work out the psychological means to convince the Solarians to accept membership in the Federation.
- Far Centaurus (1944), short story by A. E. van Vogt published in the collection Destination: Universe! (1952). A crew of Terran explorers who have been hibernating through a centuries-long voyage to Alpha Centauri discover on arrival that their technology has been radically superseded; humanity has arrived at the Alphan planet Pelham via superluminal travel long before them, and has long forgotten about them and their primitive mission (compare Comics: Guardians of the Galaxy below). The travelers must overcome their childlike naïveté to cope with the near Godlike human civilization that has evolved in their absence—a good example of the "quasimessianic ... transcendental omnipotence" with which van Vogt often furnishes his protagonists in order to generate a sense of wonder in his tales.
- Revolt on Alpha C (1955), juvenile and debut novel by Robert Silverberg. (In this case, "Alpha C" is an abbreviation of Alpha Centauri, treated as a single star, and does not refer to Proxima Centauri as the C component of the trinary system.) In the novel, when Space Patrol cadet Larry Stark visits the dinosaur planet Alpha C IV on a final training cruise before he receives his commission, its human colonists are on the verge of declaring a war of independence from Earth. Young Stark must balance his loyalty against his ideals and decide which side to support in this morally ambiguous confrontation.
- The Magellanic Cloud (1955), untranslated Polish language novel (Obłok Magellana) by Stanislaw Lem. Aboard a vessel called Gaia, 227 men and women leave the Earth for the Alpha Centauri system. After almost eight years of travel, they find signs of organic life on a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, possibly coming from another planet within the Centauri system. One of the planets orbiting Alpha Centauri turns out to be inhabited by an advanced civilization.
- Childe Cycle (1959), unfinished series of novels by Gordon R. Dickson. The Alpha Centauri system has a total of 12 planets, among them Cassida in orbit around Alpha Centauri A and Newton in orbit around Alpha Centauri B. Cassida has a hard science splinter culture, known for its technicians and engineers. A poor world, it also provides mercenaries to other planetary governments. Newton also has a hard science culture. It is preeminent in science, and its physicists are without peer.
- Seed of Light (1959), novel by Edmund Cooper. An elite crew of men and women fleeing Earth after a nuclear holocaust reach the Alpha Centauri system, only to discover—to their vast chagrin—that there are no planets there. Reluctantly, they forge onward.
- Alpha Centauri or Die! (1963), novel by Leigh Brackett (fixup of The Ark of Mars (1953) and Teleportress of Alpha C (1954), originally published as an Ace Double with Legend of Lost Earth by G. McDonald Wallis). In this novel, a small group of colonists on Mars conspires to refurbish an abandoned starship hulk, with the goal of escaping from repressive Martian rule. Their destination is a habitable planet of Alpha Centauri, where they can govern themselves in imagined peace and security.
- Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964), novel by Philip K. Dick. War between Earth and the insectoid-dominated planet Alpha II ended over a decade ago. The novel's plot revolves around an attempt by Earth to reassert authority over its former colony on the habitable second moon Alpha III M2 of Alpha Centauri's giant[note 1] third planet, called the "Alphane" moon from Dick's invented adjective form of Alpha Centauri, which he treats as a single star. The moon M2, once a psychiatric asylum, is inhabited by descendants of the original inmates who now populate tongue-in-cheek "Clans": Pares (paranoids), who form the statesman class; Manses (manics), who form the warrior caste; Skitzes (poets) and so on. In his novel The Blue World (1966) Jack Vance pursued a similar humorous conceit, where the castes evolved from the criminal métiers of prisoners aboard a crashed "Ship of Space": Swindlers (fishermen) who cozen fish into their nets, Bezzlers who form a priestly class, and so on.
- The Man-Kzin Wars (1966), Known Space novel by Larry Niven. Wunderland is a planet circling Alpha Centauri, and the location of the first extra-solar colony in the human history of Known Space. A salubrious world with a gravity 60% of Earth normal, it was invaded and its population enslaved for almost half a century by the Kzinti during the first Man-Kzin War. Alpha Centaurian men and women endured, or waged guerrilla warfare from remote and desolate bases, until the liberation.
- "Like Banquo's Ghost" (1968), short story by Larry Niven published in the collection The Shape of Space (1969). This ironic tale provides a twist on the more common "leapfrogged slowship" theme (compare Literature: Far Centaurus and Comics: Guardians of the Galaxy in this article). The variation goes like this: A group of elite scientists and reporters gathers to hear a radio transmission from the Snarkhunter #3 robotic space probe as it finally arrives, after a 30-year interstellar voyage, at the planet Centaura of Alpha Centauri A. Among the invited guests is the strangely enthusiastic "Butch"—who is none other than the recently arrived (via faster-than-light ship) ambassador from ... Alpha Centauri.
- The Centauri Device (1975), novel by M. John Harrison. The native Centaurians (humanoid aliens able to interbreed with humans) have been eradicated in a genocidal attack serving as an instrument of Earth's expanding colonization of the galaxy. The novel's protagonist John Truck, half-Centaurian on his mother's side, is "the last of the Centaurians," and as such the only person able to operate the "device" of the book's title: a sentient bomb which might just hold the key to settling a vicious space war. According to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, "... The Centauri Device is a significantly disgruntled space opera ... and one which demonstrates Harrison's persistent discomfort with the escapist conventions of this sort of science fiction. Unsurprisingly, the doomsday device of the title duly blows up the Galaxy."
- Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD (1978), a Terran Trade Authority handbook by Stewart Cowley. Alpha Centauri is the home system of the Alphans, the first alien race to associate with humanity. The Alphans become Earth's allies in a war with Proxima Centauri (the "Proximan War"). Cowley's book, a spacecraft handbook in the style of Jane's Aircraft 1977-1978 (current ed. Jane's Aircraft 2010-2011) rather than a novel, covers the events immediately before and after the Proximan War Era. It examines the 40 major types of craft operating during the period, including those of the inhabited systems of Alpha and Proxima Centauri, giving details of their development and operational history, and charts of their technical specifications.
- Downbelow Station (1981) and other Alliance-Union universe works, novels by C. J. Cherryh. Alpha Centauri is the site of Beta Station, the second space station founded by an Earth Company expedition from Sol. Unlike the rest of the stations founded before the discovery of Pell's World in the Tau Ceti system, it is not part of the "Great Circle" chain of stations (which extends from Sol to Tau Ceti with Barnard's Star as its first stop). Beta Station was established in 2039 but mysteriously abandoned around 2160. Because it lies on no important trade routes, and apparently has no special resources of note, the system will not be recolonized for at least the next 300 years.
- Tale of Two Planets (1981), novel by Professor Morris Asimow. In this novel with a message, visitors from Alpha Centauri help to create a utopian planet Earth.
- Voyage from Yesteryear (1982), novel by James P. Hogan. An automated genetic Ark flees imminent nuclear catastrophe on the Earth, and locates a habitable planet in orbit around Alpha Centauri. Hundreds of human ova are programmed from the DNA databanks, then birthed and raised in untrammeled innocence by robotic nannies. As these "natural humans" grow to maturity, they organize the polity of their colony world Chiron[note 2] as a classless pastoral anarchy. When a resurgent and covetous Earth comes calling, the Chironians "governed according to [a] kind of Trickster Libertarianism ... effortlessly face down and flummox the attempt by Earth to re-establish control." Instead of seizing power, the invaders are happily assimilated.
- Neuromancer (1984), novel by William Gibson. The newly integrated AI Wintermute/Neuromancer has transcended Earthly concerns, and is looking for "its own kind" to talk to. It scans mountains of old records, and finds a series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years back in the nineteen-seventies that subtly indicate the presence of a peer intelligence "in the [Alpha] Centauri system." The two AIs are in communication, and their search for other advanced intelligences proceeds apace.
- Footfall (1985), novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The book depicts the arrival in the Solar System of an alien species called the Fithp, man-sized "elephants" with multiple trunks, that have voyaged from Alpha Centauri in a large spacecraft driven by a Bussard ramjet. The aliens are intent on taking over the Earth, but in a particular way: Herd creatures, their traditional mode of warfare is to fight until it beomes evident which antagonist is dominant; then fighting ceases and the losers are assimilated into the winning herd. The Fithp expect their contact with humans to proceed along these lines, and are confused by human attempts at peaceful contact.
- Foundation and Earth (1986), Foundation series novel by Isaac Asimov. The marine world Alpha orbiting Alpha Centauri A (see graphic) is the final home of the last human refugees from some dying, radioactive world. The survivors, encountered here by Foundation councillor Golan Trevize, dwell in seeming Polynesian simplicity on Alpha's only land mass, a Jamaica-sized island called by them "New Earth," and the old product of a charitable terraforming project by imperial engineers under the emperor Kandar V. Could their moribund homeworld be the long-lost "Old Earth," the supposed cradle of humanity?
- The Songs of Distant Earth (1986), novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Scientists in the 1960s discover that the neutrino (νe) emissions from the Sun are far less than predicted by theory;[note 3] it is soon confirmed that the Sun will go nova around the year 3600 CE. Humankind embarks on a massive project to send robot-tended human and other mammalian embryos to habitable worlds orbiting nearby stars. The first destination is Pasadena, a planet of Alpha Centauri A rendered nearly uninhabitable by the variable proximity of Alpha Centauri B (The first seedship left the Solar System in 2553, heading toward the Sun's near twin, Alpha Centauri A). The colony there does surprisingly well.
- Starfire (1990–2002), series of novels by David Weber and Steve White based on the Starfire board wargame (1979–1980) by Stephen V. Cole. The Alpha Centauri system plays a key role in the Terran Federation because it is the location of a large number of warp-point junctions, including one that tunnels directly into the Solar System; it is the headquarters and principal shipyard of the Terran Federation Navy. In the second novel in the series, In Death Ground, the Arachnid race discovers an unmapped warp point opening near Alpha Centauri, by means of which they mount a massive invasion of Terran space.
- Harvest of Stars (1994), novel by Poul Anderson. The planet Demeter of Alpha Centauri is marginally habitable, but the Fireball Corporation sends a colony ship full of refugees anyway. "Everybody knew that in a thousand years the planet, Demeter, would collide with another. But those thousand years could be lived in, and perhaps during them the descendants of the colonists would find a means of surviving.
- The Killing Star (1995), novel by Charles R. Pellegrino with George Zebrowski. In the late 21st century a peaceful and prosperous humanity, just mastering the technology enabling it to explore the galaxy at relativistic speeds, is blindsided by a massive, devastating attack of relativistic kill vehicles. Boulder-sized chunks of metal, with kinetic energy in the multi-megaton range, they are impossible to track and impossible to stop. Humanity is all but wiped out by this horrific bombardment, which has its origin in the Alpha Centauri AB-C system. The cephalopod Alphans explain that the attack was pre-emptive: The moment we learned to travel at relativistic speeds was the moment we had the power to do to them what they did to us first.
- Drakon (1996), Domination series novel by S. M. Stirling. The planet Samothrace in the Alpha Centauri system is a colony of Alliance refugees from the Final War on Earth between the Alliance and the Drakon Domination. Samothrace comes under renewed Drakon assault in an alternate universe that is identical to our own except in the subtlest of details (Star Wars fans should be able to tell the difference).
- Encounter with Tiber (1996), novel written by John Barnes and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Nine thousand years ago an alien species inhabiting the moon Tiber of a gas giant[note 1] planet in the Alpha Centauri A system was facing a cosmic catastrophe; their only hope of communal survival was to explore and colonize nearby space. In the story, one of their reconnaissance vessels visited the Earth and left an encyclopedia with the collected knowledge of their race, which is discovered by humanity in the 21st century and leads to a Terran expedition to Tiber to find out who the encyclopedists were.
- The Sparrow (1996), novel by Mary Doria Russell. In 2019 the SETI program detects radio broadcasts from the planet Rakhat in the Alpha Centauri system. The Catholic Jesuit order sends an unauthorized expedition to the planet, and their incomprehension of its radical differences from human culture lead to tragedy. The protagonist and sole survivor Father Emilio Sandoz returns to Earth shattered and disfigured, and his revelations devastate the order, leaving him personally to initiate the painful process of physical and spiritual healing. In a sequel, Children of God, Sandoz is forced to return to Rakhat, and discovers that he is not in fact the only survivor of the original expedition.
- "Aftermath" (1998), novel by Charles Sheffield, one of his two "Supernova Alpha" novels. When Alpha Centauri goes supernova, the effects on Earth are catastrophic. This novel explores the aftermath of this improbable celestial event.
- Factoring Humanity (1998), novel by Robert J. Sawyer. SETI astronomers detect an artificial signal from Alpha Centauri A, the first inkling of a ten-year flood of cryptic data that protagonist Heather Davis devotes herself to deciphering. She finally succeeds, and discovers in the data plans for an extra-dimensional vehicle that could enable contact with the "Centaurs." Meanwhile, a single cryptic message is received from Epsilon Eridani, easier to translate but much more alarming: "It couldn't be plainer: biological life, based on carbon, being supplanted by silicon-based artificial intelligence ..." And it turns out that the collective unconscious "overminds" of Earth and Alpha Centauri are already in contact. Is humanity on the threshold of an era of limitless exploration—or of extinction?
- Centauri Dawn (2000), first novel of a trilogy by Michael Ely based on the 1999 computer game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The trilogy describes the struggles of the colonists on Chiron—a habitable world[note 2] in the Alpha Centauri system, after their colony ship Unity suffers major damage and the survivors are forced to land on the planet in lifeboats. Subsequent novels in the trilogy are Dragon Sun (2001) and Twilight of the Mind (2002).
- Borrowed Tides (2001), novel by Paul Levinson. Mankind's first interstellar voyage will be to Alpha Centauri, but starship technology can only get the crew there, and not back again. There are still ample volunteers for the one-way trip, but a startling idea that just might bring them home is uncovered in the memoirs of Wise Oak, an Iroquois sachem who lived about 1500 CE on the banks of the Hudson, a tidal river that flows both ways: "The currents flow both ways not only in the Big River—the Hudson—but in the [cosmic] Big River to the star cluster that we call Alpha Centauri".
- Flight of The Mayflower Vol. One (2004), novel by Mark Carew and Josh Garratt. Earth is a mess, political and environmental issues are tearing the planet apart, and there doesn't seem to be much future to look forward to. A plan is devised to build a starship Ark carrying 100 colonists in suspended animation to an earthlike planet of Alpha Centauri A, but it will take 10 years to travel there. No one knows if it will work, there is no contact with Earth and no help on the way, and the colonists are on their own. They do land successfully, and the planet is hospitable—but there are complications. At this point "Volume One" ends, leaving the reader impatient for Volume 2.
- Three Body (2008), (written in Chinese language), the first novel in the Three Body Trilogy by Liu Cixin (Chinese: 劉慈欣). In this novel the three component stars of the Alpha Centauri system are described to orbit each other in irregular and unforeseeable ways due to the complicated gravitational interactions between them, and the single planet of the combined system wanders chaotically among them . Extremophilic life managed to evolve in its wildly variable environment and rise to the level of sentience, although the trisolarian civilization has been destroyed again and again by the unpredictable movements and distances of the suns in its sky. Seeking a more benign home, the trisolarians plan a subluminal invasion of the Earth. They won't arrive soon, though. (Liu's application of three-body dynamics to the Alpha-Centauri system is an original and intriguing idea, but it is counterfactual: The Alpha Centauri AB-C system is actually stable and predictable. Components A and B orbit one another as an ordinary binary pair of stars, unperturbed by tiny, distant C. Component C, 0.2 light years away from AB, orbits the pair as it would a remote point source of gravity.)
- Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze (2010), second in the series of Johnny Mackintosh novels by Keith Mansfield. There is intergalactic war. As the novel opens Toliman (it is not made clear whether this is the A or B component of the Alpha Centauri system) is forced to go supernova—the "star blaze" of the title (see graphic)—with the military objective of destroying its planetary system(s) and possibly that of the Sun as well. It is not explained how Alpha Centauri A (at 1.10 solar masses, spectral class G) or Alpha Centauri B (0.91 solar masses, spectral class K) could produce either a Type Ia supernova, which requires a white dwarf star (spectral class D), or a Type II supernova, which requires a giant star of between 9 and 40-50 solar masses.
- Michael D. O'Brien: Voyage to Alpha Centauri (2013) Set eighty years in the future, an expedition is sent from the planet Earth to Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our solar system. The Kosmos, a great ship that the central character Neil de Hoyos describes as a "flying city", is immense in size and capable of more than half light-speed. Hoyos, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who has played a major role in designing the ship, signs on as a passenger.
Film and television
- Lost in Space (1965–1968), television series created by Irwin Allen and variously directed. The astronaut family of Professor John Robinson, accompanied by their pilot Major Donald West and a robot, strikes out from an overpopulated Earth in the spacecraft Jupiter 2. The crew is frozen in suspended animation for the five-and-a-half year voyage to a known habitable planet of Alpha Centauri, on which they are to found a colony. The ship is lost in space due to sabotage by an enemy agent, Dr. Zachary Smith, who is trapped aboard the ship at launch. Hurtling on into deep space, the Jupiter 2 crash lands on an unknown planet. Although remote, this lost world soon becomes a stopping-off point for practically every space-travelling alien or monster in the galaxy, each episode seeing the arrival of some new visitor. (See Lost in Space, the film, below.)
- "Metamorphosis" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Gene L. Coon, as part of the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry. Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive, lived in the Alpha Centauri system for some years before his mysterious disappearance in 2119. He is discovered alive and living in obscurity with the Companion (an ethereal presence of pure energy) by the crew of the Enterprise, who agree not to reveal his whereabouts.
- "The Curse of Peladon" (1972) and "The Monster of Peladon" (1974), serials written by Brian Hayles and directed by Lennie Mayne for the television series Doctor Who. Alpha Centauri is home to a race of six-armed chameleon caterpillars. Timid and prone to panic, they are still loyal and dutiful members of the Galactic Federation. The members of this species lack individual names in the show.
- Into Infinity (UK, 1975), educational children's television drama (also known as The Day After Tomorrow in the US) written by Johnny Byrne and directed by Charles Crichton. The plot of Into Infinity involves the interstellar mission of the Altares, a science vessel of the future that can travel at the speed of light. Departing from its original destination, the nearby star system Alpha Centauri, the Altares moves deeper into space and her crew of three adults and two children encounters phenomena such as a meteor shower, a red giant star and, finally, a black hole, which pulls the ship into another universe.
- "The Golden Man" (1981), episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (season 2) written by Calvin Clements Sr. and Stephen McPherson and directed by Vincent McEveety. Under the command of Admiral Asimov, the spaceship Searcher enters the asteroid belt of the Alpha Centauri system and becomes trapped on a planetoid by a lethal magnetic storm. The crew comes upon Velis, one of the golden people, humanoids who possess alchemical faculties and age in reverse. Velis reveals that his companion, Relos, can use special powers to help the ship escape destruction if the crew is willing to rescue him from the prison planet Iris VII orbiting Alpha Centauri.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994), in the episode Past Tense, Part 1 the crew of the Starship USS Defiant were transported back in time to the year 2024 on Earth. Chief Miles O'Brien ran a scan and found that the nearest interstellar activity to Earth was at Alpha Centauri with the Romulans.
- Babylon 5 (1993), it was established that Alpha Centauri (renamed Proxima Centauri in the show's continuum) is a colony of the Earth Alliance, the governing body of humanity. Interstellar travel is achieved via the use of jumpgates, wherein ships are able to enter a separate dimension where distances between heavenly bodies is shorter compared to "normal" space. The planet Proxima Centauri 3 was featured in the season 4 episode "No Surrender, No Retreat" in which the protagonists battle a fleet of Earthforce ships during the Earth civil war arc of the show.
- Lost in Space (1998), film inspired by the television series, written by Akiva Goldsman and directed by Stephen Hopkins. In the year 2058, Earth will soon be uninhabitable due the irreversible effects of global pollution. Professor John Robinson will lead his family to the habitable planet Alpha Prime of Alpha Centauri to prepare it for colonization by building a hypergate in the system. This time the Jupiter 2 is equipped with a hyperdrive that allows faster-than-light travel. Again, they become lost in space. (See Lost in Space, the television series, above.)
- Impostor (2002), film adapted by Scott Rosenberg from a short story by Philip K. Dick and directed by Gary Fleder. The film takes place in the year 2079. Forty-five years earlier, Earth was attacked by a hostile alien civilization from Alpha Centauri, and war has raged ever since. The story follows Spencer Olham, a government designer of top-secret weapons, who is detained on suspicion of unknowingly being a bomb-carrying, replicant assassin created by the Centaurians. As things turn out, he is just that, as the body of the real human Spencer Olham is discovered at the crash site of an alien spacecraft—but the hidden bomb explodes prematurely and the planned assassination attempt fails.
- Transformers (2007), film written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and directed by Michael Bay. Optimus Prime, leader of the benevolent Autobots, narrates the collapse of the Transformers' home world, Cybertron. It was destroyed by war between the Autobots and the malevolent Decepticons, led by Megatron in his quest to get hold of the AllSpark. The Autobots want to find the AllSpark so they can use it to rebuild Cybertron and end the war, while the Decepticons want to use it to defeat the Autobots and take over the universe. Cybertron, the home planet of the Transformers, originally orbited Alpha Centauri, but was thrown out of orbit in the war and sent wandering through the galaxy. Cybertron has a metallic surface; the atmosphere is breathable by carbon-based life, but liquid water is rare enough on the planet that its existence is in doubt (see Comics: The Transformers below).
- Avatar (2009), film written and directed by James Cameron. The film is set in 2154, when Earth's RDA Corporation is mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush habitable moon of the gas giant Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri A system (see graphic).[note 1] Pandora, whose atmosphere is poisonous to humans, is inhabited by the Na'vi, 10-foot-tall blue-skinned intelligent humanoids who live in harmony with nature. The film's title Avatar refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi-human hybrid bodies used by a team of researchers to interact with the natives. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of the Na'vi, and sympathetic humans use their Avatars to lead them in a revolt against the corporate security forces.
- The Asylum film Princess of Mars is set on the fourth planet of Alpha Centauri, named "Mars-216".
- "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by D. C. Fontana, as part of the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry. When captured by Air Police Colonel Fellini (portrayed by Ed Peck), Kirk is asked who he is; Kirk responds, "I'm a little green man from Alpha Centauri, a beautiful place, you should see it some time!"
- Eagle (Dan Dare) #1 et seq (1950- ), title in the Eagle comic book series. In the Dan Dare stories "The Man from Nowhere" and its sequel "Rogue Planet," Dare (The World's No. One Space Hero!) visits an unnamed star system less than 5 light-years from Earth that has three suns, one of which is a red dwarf. Since all the components of Alpha Centauri are closer to the Earth than 5 ly (AB at 4.36 ly; C at 4.24 ly), and the second closest star to the Earth (Barnard's Star) is 5.96 ly distant, Dare's destination was Alpha Centauri.
- Showcase #17 et seq (1958- ), comic books in the DC Comics universe. Rann is a planet originally located in the Alpha Centauri system whose capital city is Ranagar. Rann is most famous for being the adopted planet of the Earth explorer and hero Adam Strange and for its teleportation device called the Zeta Beam, invented by the noted Rannian Sardath. Natives of Rann are for all intents and purposes identical to terrestrial humans.
- Marvel Super-Heroes (Guardians of the Galaxy) #18 et seq (1969- ), comic books in the Marvel Comics universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy (1969 team) are a band of super-heroes active in the 31st century. An original team member is Major Vance Astro, an astronaut from 20th-century Earth who spends a thousand years travelling to Alpha Centauri in suspended animation. Upon his arrival on the planet Centauri IV, Astro learns that space travelers from the Earth have beaten him there by two hundred years, having developed a faster-than-light drive during his journey (compare Literature: Far Centaurus above). In spite of this, the Centaurian people give him a hero's welcome.
- The Transformers #1-80 (1984–1991), comic books in the Marvel Comics universe. Cybertron, the home planet of the Transformers, originally orbited Alpha Centauri, but was later thrown out of orbit and sent wandering through the galaxy. Cybertron has a metallic surface; the atmosphere is breathable by carbon-based life, but liquid water is rare enough on the planet that its existence is in doubt.
- 2300 AD (1986), role-playing game designed by the Game Designers' Workshop. The Alpha Centauri system has a number of habitable worlds:
- Alpha Centauri A I. Tirane, the first planet of Alpha Centauri A, is a habitable "garden" world where a number of Terran nations each maintain one or more colonies. It was the first habitable extrasolar planet discovered by mankind, and it has grown in importance until it is considered to be one of the core worlds.
- Alpha Centauri B I. Sheol, the first planet of Alpha Centauri B, is a hothouse world with significant deposits of minerals and a thriving extraction industry.[note 4]
- Alpha Centauri B III. Limbes, the third planet of Alpha Centauri B, is a post-garden world, sterilized by the greenhouse effect. Scientists maintain a research station in orbit around this world. Despite almost a century of study, no surviving life forms have been detected, but fossil evidence still bears witness to a rich ecology that long ago perished.
- Alpha Centauri C (Proxima Centauri) I. Moiroi (with its associated satellites: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) is the sole planet of Proxima Centauri. Several nations maintain scientific or mining stations on the moons of this planet.
- Civilization (1991), video strategy game developed by MicroProse and designed by Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley. One of the potential victory conditions in Civilization and its sequels involves being the first civilization to send a colony ship to the Alpha Centauri system. If more than one civilization is in a position to do so, a space race may result.
- Frontier: Elite II (1993) and Frontier: First Encounters (1995), computer games written by David Braben et al. The Alpha Centauri system is the location of Eden, the first extrasolar planet discovered with flowing surface water. Despite this amenity (and its name) Eden is uninhabitable, although a small research station is located there, and difficult to visit, since its starport is 900 to 1000 AU away from the nearest hyperspace jump point.
- Alien Legacy (1994), video strategy game developed by Joe Ybarra and published by Sierra Entertainment. In the 22nd century, aliens from an Alpha Centauri "homeworld" (whether it is α Cen A, B, or C is not specified) discover humanity's existence on the Earth and attack the planet with murderous intent. Pursuant to this war the player is charged with colonizing the Beta Caeli planets—where the actual game takes place.
- Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri (1996), first-person shooter video game developed and published by Looking Glass Studios. In the year 2327, a faction of humans has colonized the Alpha Centauri star system to escape from a totalitarian Earth government. The player assumes the role of Nikola ap Io, the leader of an Alpha Centauri military unit, and undertakes missions against space pirates and the Earth Hegemony. The Alpha Centauri system has a total of eight planets with a number of moons orbiting them; the game takes place on three of the planets including NewHope and the ice-planet Thatcher, and on one of the moons.
- Independence War (1997), space combat computer game developed by Particle Systems and published by Infogrames. In the game, the player takes the role of a 23rd-century spaceship captain in the Earth Commonwealth Navy, commander of the Dreadnaught. The primary antagonists are rebellious insurgents called the Indies, a group distinguished by their elaborately and colourfully painted ships; it is the captain's job to bring them back under the control of Earth. The Alpha Centauri system lies at the center of an interstellar jump point network, making it one of the most strategic in the game.
- Colony Wars (1997), Sony PlayStation video game developed by Psygnosis and produced by Sony. The player of this game assumes the role of an unnamed starfighter pilot in the League of Free Worlds, fighting for independence against the despotic Earth Empire and its Colonial Navy. Alpha Centauri was the first star system colonized by humanity; it has been depleted of its raw materials in the subsequent centuries, and subjected to a long and violent civil war between League Supporters and Navy Loyalists. Alpha Centauri is also home to the Faction, who serve as the main antagonists for missions based in the system.
- Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (1999), video strategy game developed by Firaxis Games and published by Electronic Arts. Inspired by Meier's earlier success Civilization, and set in the 22nd century, this game begins when seven competing ideological factions land on the planet Chiron in the Alpha Centauri star system. As the game progresses, the planet's growing sentience becomes a formidable obstacle to the human colonists.[note 2]
- Earth & Beyond (2002), massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Electronic Arts. Alpha Centauri is a star system colonized by the Earth that has two habitable planets: Zweihander,[note 5] a Super-Earth orbiting Alpha Centauri A (see graphics above), and Witburg, a Mars-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B.
- Killzone (2004), Sony PlayStation video game series developed by Guerrilla Games and produced by Sony. The Alpha Centauri system is the location of two habitable planets, Vekta and Helghan. The backstory features the war between the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) and the Helghast, inhabitants of Helghan. The main antagonist is Helghast Emperor Scolar Visari; his death in the second installment of the series precipitates a succession struggle among the Helghast, and provides the motivation for plentiful game action.
- Mass Effect 2 (2010), role playing game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. In the setting of this game, an expedition originally left the Earth for the Alpha Centauri system in 2070, but contact with the crew was soon lost. In 2185, the Asari, a race allied with humanity, reports the discovery in the system of an independent colony descended from the original explorers.
- Star Control II (1992), computer game developed by Toys for Bob and published by Accolade. The Alpha Centauri system is one of the closest to Sol, our Sun, and the Melnorme, a race of interstellar traders, can be found there. Note that Alpha Centauri is depicted in the game as a single red supergiant star, very different of the trinary, Sun-like, real star.
- James Cameron's Avatar: The Game (2009), Third-person action video game made as a prequel to the famous film, and made by Ubisoft Montreal and released on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii and Nintendo DS on December 1, 2009, with a PSP version coming out later. Set in 2152, you are a signal specialist named Able Ryder and when arriving on Pandora, he/she is assigned to Blue Lagoon, A large piece of jungle fenced off so no large animal gets in.
- The song "We Must Believe in Magic", written by Bob McDill and Allen Reynolds, and popularized by Crystal Gayle as the title track of her 1977 album We Must Believe in Magic, describes the captain and crew of a ship bound for Alpha Centauri as "mad" and "dreamers and poets and clowns." Gayle also performed the song on the Muppet Show.
Alpha Centauri is referred to as a location in space or the center of a planetary system unusually often in fiction. For a list containing many stars and planetary systems that have a less extensive list of references, see Stars and planetary systems in fiction.
Notes and references
- In actuality, as stated in the The Alpha Centauri system section above, established planet-hunting teams have failed to detect any gas giant exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system.
- Whether by coincidence or not, two authors (1982, 2000) have elected the name Chiron for a "habitable" or "earthlike" planet of the Alpha Centauri system. The second novelistic reference echoes a third use of "Chiron" by a related game (1999). A possible reason for this confluence is that, in Greek mythology Chiron, the teacher of Achilles (see graphic), was held to be the superlative (alpha) centaur among his brethren.
- Clarke's science was solid for its time (1986). The "solar neutrino problem" perplexed scientists from the 1960s until 2002, with the discovery that neutrinos can oscillate between three states (νe, νμ, ντ), the latter two types previously undetected in the solar flux. The Sun will not go nova anytime soon.
- Sheol, the Hebrew underworld more akin to the Greek Hades than to the Christian conception of Hell, was used by author Cordwainer Smith with the variant spelling Shayol as the name of his "terrible" prison-planet
- Zweihänder, or "two-hander," is the German word for greatsword.
- Guinan, Edward et al (Aug 10, 2009). "The violent youth of solar proxies steer course of genesis of life". International Astronomical Union. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
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- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Lost in Space". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 734. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- "The Golden Man". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 1981. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
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- Choi, Charles Q (December 28, 2009). "Moons like Avatar's Pandora Could be Found". MSNBC. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
- Rottenberg, Josh (December 18, 2009). "James Cameron Talks 'Avatar': Brave Blue World". Entertainment Weekly 48 (1081).
- Winters Keegan, Rebecca (January 11, 2007). "Q&A with James Cameron". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
- Smith, Cordwainer (1993). The Rediscovery of Man. Farmingham, MA: NESFA Press. p. 421 ff. ISBN 0-915368-56-0.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Crime and Punishment". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 275. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- In-game log, "Video from 2145"
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- The Muppet Show - S4 E2 P3/3 - Crystal Gayle on YouTube