Tau Ceti in fiction
The planetary systems of stars other than the Sun and the Solar System are a staple element in much science fiction. Tau Ceti is the second closest star to the Sun (after Alpha Centauri A) having spectral class G, making it a popular story setting or system of origin in science fiction tales. The Sun, itself of spectral class G, provides an obvious model for the possibility that the star might harbor worlds capable of supporting life. But Tau Ceti, weighing in at ~0.78 M☉, is metal-poor and so is thought to be unlikely to host rocky planets (see Destination: Void by Frank Herbert below); on the other hand, observations have detected more than ten times as much dust around the star than exists in the Solar System, a condition tending to enhance the probability of such bodies. Since the star's luminosity is barely 55% that of the Sun, those planets would need to circle it at the orbital radius of Venus in order to match the insolation received by the Earth. (See Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein below.)
Tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. The name Cetus is also Greek (Κῆτος, Kētos) as well as Arabic (ألقيتوس, al Ḳaiṭos) and translates variously as a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. In Greek mythology, the cetacean constellation, although not the star itself, represents the monster slain by Perseus in his rescue of the beautiful princess Andromeda.
General uses of Tau Ceti
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 Earth, but not as locations in space or the centers of planetary systems.
The constellation Cetus lies close to the celestial equator and intersects the plane of the ecliptic, which allows it to be seen from most of the Earth's surface. However, because of its unprepossessing appearance in the sky, and its want of a "good" traditional name to supplement its esoteric Bayer designation, Tau Ceti has rarely if ever been used in a general sense, either in traditional mythologies or in the arts and literature that draw sustenance from them.
The star's popularity as a subject of science fiction stems not from its general cultural resonance, but from its astronomical data:
- proximity, ~11.9 light-years distant
- similarity to the Sun, ~0.78 M☉, spectral type G
- a short but technical sounding name, in this context a benefit rather than a detriment
- capacity to host a family of earth-like planets (proven in 2012)
- The Queen of Zamba (1949), and other novels, novellas, and short stories in the Viagens Interplanetarias series (1949–1991) by L. Sprague de Camp. Following upon first contact with men from Earth, the inhabitants of pre-technological Krishna struggle to adapt to a future that will be radically different from their past, assisted by a cast of rogues, heroes, and charlatans from our own planet. The Tau Ceti system contains the inhabited planets Krishna, Vishnu, and Ganesha. The Krishna tales (all having a "Z" in their titles) are early examples of the planetary romance, containing a blend of intelligent, exotic adventure and wry humor characteristic of de Camp's better work.
- The Caves of Steel (1954) and many following works in the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. In Asimov's fictional universe, the innermost planet orbiting Tau Ceti was mankind's first extrasolar planetary settlement: Aurora, the first world settled by the Spacers, and at its height possessing a population of 200 million humans and 10 billion robots. In Caves Doctor Han Fastolfe is debating the limitations of Earthmen with detective Lije Baley: "Why is the suggestion ridiculous? Earthmen have colonized planets in the past. Over thirty of the fifty Outer Worlds, including my native Aurora, were directly colonized by Earthmen."
- Time for the Stars (1956), novel by Robert Heinlein. This novel explores the twin paradox as one of a pair of twins linked by instantaneous telepathy sets out on a space voyage on the interstellar torchship Lewis and Clark. The starship, nicknamed "Elsie" (for the initials L.C.) encounters a number of more or less terrestrial planets including Constance, in orbit around Tau Ceti, a world later colonized by humans. Heinlein uses an obsolete value for Tau Ceti's luminosity—0.3 —and calculates that earthlike Constance must orbit its star at a radius of 50 million miles.[note 1]
- Destination: Void (1966), novel by Frank Herbert. As an artificial intelligence experiment, a crew of clones is raised in isolation on the Moon believing that they are the crew of a sleeper ship dispatched on a colonizing expedition to the Tau Ceti system, captained by the Organic Mental Core, a disembodied human brain. The kicker is, Tau Ceti has no planets. It's all part of the experiment... This somewhat clotted tale, a distinctly minor effort, was published contemporaneously with Herbert's seminal Hugo and Nebula-award winning Dune—one of the most famous of all science fiction novels.
- Empire Star (1966), novella by Samuel R. Delany. The story revolves around the protagonist, Comet Jo, and a narrator-creature named Jewel. It is a tale of Comet Jo’s coming-of-age, his initiation into the ways of galactic society, his efforts to deliver an unspecified but important message to the Empire Star, and his encounter with a movement to bring an end to slavery. As the narrative opens, we meet Comet Jo at eighteen years of age. He has spent his entire life in a simplex society on Rhys, a satellite of the Jovian planet Tyre orbiting Tau Ceti: "Crimson Ceti bruised the western crags; Tyre, giant as solar Jupiter, was a black curve against a quarter of the sky..."[note 2] The first insight of Jo's developing maturity is his realization that the "simplex" culture of his home is actually quite "complex"...
- A Gift from Earth (1968), a 'Known Space' novel by Larry Niven. The colony world Plateau in the Tau Ceti system lives by a rigorous code: All crimes are punishable by involuntary organ harvesting, while organ transplants are reserved to the benefit of the aristocracy. A robotic Bussard ramjet (see graphic) arrives from Earth, bearing a gift that will upset the unstable social balance on Plateau. The relative proximity of Tau Ceti to the Earth (with a turnaround point at UV Ceti) is an important plot element in the novel, enabling Plateau to be isolated from the mother planet, and yet still close enough to receive occasional cargoes via ramjet. The exploitation of the interstellar ramjet is just one of Larry Niven's many technical coups; as his career blossomed he was seen by many as the last best hope of hard science fiction with his inventiveness, his belief in the ultimately beneficial effects of technology, and his cognitive exuberance.
- The Iron Dream (1972), novel written by Norman Spinrad. In this satirical alternate history, Adolf Hitler emigrates as a youth to the United States, where he becomes first a pulp science fiction illustrator, then a hack genre author of distinctly limited talents. In a story-within-a-story he pens a potboiler novel entitled Lord of the Swastika, which culminates in legions of seven-foot, blond, superintelligent male SS clones being shipped off to Tau Ceti where they will establish a colony as the first step to a literal thousand-year reich and galactic domination.
- The Dispossessed (1974), novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Urras and its moon/co-planet Anarres form a binary pair that in turn orbits Tau Ceti. Urras has two major nation-states named A-Io (a cold-war analog of the United States) and Thu (a Soviet analog); the two rivals are fighting a proxy war in a third state, Benbili.[note 3] Anarchical Anarres has been settled by exiles from Urras; it is the home of the physicist Shevek, who in a conceptual breakthrough (a common Le Guin theme) develops the mathematics behind the ansible, a device enabling instantaneous communication throughout the galaxy.
- Cylinder van Troffa 1980), Polish language novel (Cylindra van Troffa) by Janusz Zajdel. This is the story of a group of astronomers who are approaching Earth after a 200-year journey from their colony world Filia (Latin for daughter) in the Tau Ceti system. They discover that their ancestors, the original colonists, were an intelligent elite who long ago left the Earth. At the time of their return our planet is no longer habitable.
- Downbelow Station (1981) and other Alliance-Union universe works, novels by C. J. Cherryh. The "Downbelow Station" of the title is Pell Station, orbiting the planet Downbelow in the Tau Ceti system. The Hisa are Downbelow's native inhabitants. Also called Downers by humans, they are gentle and friendly primate-like bipeds covered in brown fur with large eyes, possessing only the most rudimentary technology. Pell is the terminus of the "Great Circle" chain of space stations that links stars in the galactic vicinity of the Earth. As Cherryh states in her 2001 introduction to the novel, "... I selected a set of insignificant stars that lie near enough to each other to serve as a highway of waystops on the route to another truly interesting star, Tau Ceti ... which is Pell, by the way.
- "Tauf Aleph" (1981), short story by Phyllis Gotlieb. Tau Ceti IV is a marshy wet world inhabited by the Cnidori, hermaphroditic herbivores, and the Unds, giant creatures that prey upon them. The sometime caretaker and possibly the religious leader of the Cnidori is a lone human being: Samuel Zohar ben Reuven Begelman lived to a great age in the colony Pardes on Tau Ceti IV and in his last years he sent the same message with his annual request for supplies to Galactic Federation Central: "Kindly send one mourner/gravedigger so I can die in peace respectfully." Galactic Federation Central is unable to comply because Samuel is the last Jew anywhere in the galaxy—except perhaps for the Cnidori themselves.
- Shards of Honor (1986), leadoff novel in the Vorkosigan Saga (1986- ), series of science fiction novels and short stories by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Tau Ceti system is home to a major inhabited planet, ruled by a unified planetary government. Travel between star systems in the Vorkosigan universe is accomplished via wormholes (see graphic), spatial anomalies that allow instantaneous “jumps” between widely separated locations by means of five-dimensional space folding. Tau Ceti derives a great part of its galactic economic and military importance from its location near a multivalent wormhole junction.
- The Legacy of Heorot (1987), first novel in the Heorot trilogy (1987–1997) by Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle. Two hundred colonists arrive on the paradise world Avalon (Tau Ceti IV) to found a new community, having made the 100-year journey from Earth in suspended animation. The colonists, all selected for their outstanding physical and mental attributes, make a terrible discovery: Their intelligence and reasoning skill have been damaged in transit, a devolution that will ill serve them in their upcoming struggle with the native grendels for control of their new land.
- Hyperion (1989), novel by Dan Simmons. As the novel begins, the "Hegemony Consul" is interrupted in his playing of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor to the dinosaurs of a savage jungle planet by a fatline message from the Hegemony administrative world of Tau Ceti Center. The message is of irrefutable authenticity, and its content is unwelcome: he has been chosen to return to Hyperion as a member of the Shrike Pilgrimage.
- Rama Revealed (1993), novel written by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, a sequel to the novels Rendezvous with Rama, Rama II, and The Garden of Rama. The Rama of the title is an alien starship, a prototypical Big Dumb Object that arrives without warning in the Solar System in 2130. Explorers discover that the huge vessel is a hollow world-environment in the style of an O'Neill cylinder (see graphic). Over the course of seven decades and four novels humanity slowly apprehends the nature of the purpose and the advanced alien intelligences behind the Rama artifacts; in "Revealed" a contentious crew of colonists sails the Rama II to a great tetrahedral Raman Node in the Tau Ceti system, its final destination where the purpose of the universe is revealed—to those who are deemed worthy enough—by the Nodal intelligence.
- Worldwar (1994–1996), tetralogy of novels written by Harry Turtledove. In this revised history, an Earth in the throes of World War II is invaded by a fleet of starships assembled for the purpose by The Race, natives of the desert world Tau Ceti II, which they call Home. Only three times in its 50,000-year history has this expansionist species of reptilian aliens organized such an armada, each time with the goal of subduing another civilization: the Rabotev, the Halessi, and now humanity. However, the invaders are in for a surprise, as their most recent intelligence on the Earth dates from the Middle Ages. Alternate world stories are a specialty of historian Turtledove, whose "thorough understanding of his source material gracefully infiltrates the fun and fantastication."
- Magnificat (1996), third novel in the Galactic Milieu series written by Julian May. When an informant lets slip that the Krondak navy is assembling a huge armada at their Eleventh Sector Base on Molokar, a planet of Tau Ceti ("less than twelve light-years from Earth"), the Rebellion faction of the Human Polity fears that the Milieu, an enemy alliance, may be planning a preemptive strike on the Earth, with the aim of cutting her off from her colonies. May's overall narrative line follows the Rebel protagonists as they flee via time travel from this 22nd-century catastrophe into our own deep prehistory—with the attendant struggle of two alien races for control of the young planet (in the earlier-published series Saga of Pliocene Exile)—and then forward again through time to the present era, all with a sense of romance and high purpose.
- Starplex (1996), novel by Robert Sawyer. When his deep-space station Starplex is heavily damaged in a catastrophic space battle, Keith Lansing needs to report to Earth—fast—and the fastest way possible is via the shortcut network: a vast array of hyperspace gateways, built by a mysterious progenitor race, enabling instantaneous interstellar travel. Lansing flies his shuttle into Starplex station's shortcut portal, expecting to rematerialize in the outskirts of the Tau Ceti system, stop by New Beijing on Tau Ceti IV, and then dash the last 11.8 light-years home to Earth. But something goes wrong, and he emerges from the shortcut in unknown space, bare kilometers from an indescribably beautiful, robins-egg blue, alien dragon ship. He is seen...
- Mosaic (1997) and Pathways (1999), Star Trek: Voyager novels written by Jeri Taylor as part of the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry. USS Voyager captain Kathryn Janeway is the central protagonist of the television series, who must guide her ship back to Federation space after a "displacement wave" strands it on the far side of the galaxy, more than 70,000 light-years from Earth. She is also quite unattached—in the fictional tradition of Star Trek starship captains—and novelist Taylor provides her with a father and a fiancé, both tragically lost to separate accidents on the planet Tau Ceti Prime (her father, Vice Admiral Janeway, drowned under the polar icecap).
- Halo: First Strike (2003), novel set in the Halo universe and written by Eric Nylund. The Tau Ceti system is populated by a significant Covenant presence in 2552, in the form of a long-dreaded and massive fleet of warships that is destined to attack the Earth itself, together with the redoubtable refit and repair station Unyielding Hierophant. The station is destroyed by UNSC forces on September 13, 2552, along with the majority of the Covenant fleet.
- Leviathan Wakes (2011) uses Tau Ceti as the destination for a mass Mormon pilgrimage.
- In the Honorverse novel Torch of Freedom, Tau Ceti is mentioned briefly, in connection with a fictional HD series, some episodes of which were produced there.
- The Sails of Tau Ceti by Michael McCollum (2009) deals with a first contact meeting with intelligent beings from Tau Ceti.
- Bodacious Space Pirates series by Yūichi Sasamoto (2008～).heroine,Marika Kato and her friends live in the planet'Uminoakehosi' which revolves around Tau Ceti.
- Tau Ceti: A Ship From Earth by George T. Hahn (2014) takes place on Pitcairn, the second planet of the Tau Ceti system. The Pitcairn colony, isolated from Earth because of the immense distance, eagerly awaits the arrival of a supply ship from Earth, the first in twenty years. The novel, the first in a trilogy, tells the story of the ship's arrival and the effects it has on the colony.
- Tau Ceti: The New Colonists by George T. Hahn (2014) continues the saga of Pitcairn after Tau Ceti: A Ship From Earth. The Asimov brought closer contact between Earth and the distant colony, and that brings new problems for the colonists to deal with.
- "Star's Reach" (2014), by John Michael Greer. Tau Ceti II is the home of a post-industrial civilization contacting Earth. The planet, a gasoline ocean world, is inhabited by blobby yellow beings.
- "Aurora" (2015), by Kim Stanley Robinson is a novel set on a generation ship about to reach the Tau Ceti system.
Film and television
The items in this subsection all refer to works in the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), film written by Jack B. Sowards and directed by Nicholas Meyer. The film opens with a space battle between the USS Enterprise and a Klingon ship that turns out to be a simulation: the Kobayashi Maru test for cadets pursuing the command track at Starfleet Academy. This simulation confronts the subject with a moral and strategic dilemma. Should she rescue the disabled civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru if it means violating a peace treaty with the Klingons and the risk of war, or should he observe the spatial proscriptions of the treaty and abandon the ship to certain extinction? The city Amber on Tau Ceti IV is the homeport of the 3rd class neutronic fuel carrier Kobayashi Maru, and her master Kojiro Vance.
- "Where No One Has Gone Before" (1987), episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Diane Duane and Michael Reaves, and directed by Rob Bowman. The Traveler, a native of the planet Tau Alpha C in the Tau Ceti system, visits the USS Enterprise-D in 2364. The mysterious humanoid possesses the ability to alter time and space with his thoughts, due to his mastery of the concept that "matter, energy, and thought" are related and interchangeable. As a sociological assessment of the maturity of the ship's crew, the Traveler arranges for the Enterprise to approach the Outer Rim, one of the oldest parts of the universe—and a place where human beings are assaulted by all sorts of hallucinations and fantasies.
- "Conspiracy" (1988), episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Tracy Tormé and directed by Cliff Bole. Captain Walker Keel of the USS Horatio secretly contacts Captain Picard to request a face-to-face meeting. Keel is an old friend—the two first met years ago at "quite an exotic" bar on Tau Ceti III—and Picard is quick to accept. At the meeting, Keel warns Picard and several other captains to be wary of directives from the possibly compromised Starfleet Headquarters, advice reinforced when the USS Enterprise soon afterwards comes upon the wreckage of the sabotaged Horatio. Keel's suspicions are borne out as it becomes clear that certain senior admirals are controlled by invading alien parasites.
- "Shadows of P'Jem" (2002), episode of Star Trek: Enterprise , written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong and directed by Mike Vejar. The episode makes reference to the Tau Ceti Accords, a treaty signed between the Vulcans and Andorians sometime prior to 2151. It included a clause forbidding Andorian military on the Vulcan-allied planet of Coridan. The Andorians were found to have been violating this aspect of the treaty in the episode, though the Andorians found the accusation hypocritical, as the Vulcan had been found in the earlier episode "The Andorian Incident" to have been spying on the Andorians, using a listening station concealed beneath the ancient P'Jem monastery, which itself was in violation of a treaty.
Other film and television
- Barbarella (1968), film written by Vittorio Bonicelli et al and directed by Roger Vadim based on Jean-Claude Forest's French Barbarella comics. Barbarella is assigned by the President of Earth to retrieve Dr. Durand Durand—inventor of the Positronic Ray—from the planet Tau Ceti that he might use it to help save the Earth. The mission starts badly as she crashes on an icy plain of her destination world. After a lengthy and complicated sequence of concussions, captures, rescues, grateful copulations, wardrobe malfunctions, and repeated changes into ever scantier costumes, culminating in a confrontation with the Tyrant of the decadent city of Sogo[note 4], Barbarella discovers Durand Durand—who has other ideas than returning to Earth with her, starting with the Excessive Machine (see graphic). The alien world of Tau Ceti is distinguished by a real, if intermittent sense of wonder created by the sheer otherworldliness of the production design and art direction.
- Terror of the Zygons (1975), serial written by Robert Banks Stewart for the television series Doctor Who. The Doctor and Sarah become involved in a plot by the Zygons, led by their warlord Broton, to take over the Earth, using the Loch Ness Monster—an armoured cyborg of great power—as a cat's-paw, and using their shape-shifting ability to infiltrate human defenses. The Zygons are in need of a new planet because their homeworld Zygor was destroyed in an attack by the Xaranti, an arachnid race from Tau Ceti.
- The Stones of Blood (1978), serial written by David Fisher for the television series Doctor Who. The Doctor and Romana are about to embark in search of the third segment of the Key to Time when they abruptly find themselves face to face with the Nine Travelers, a group of standing stones on Boscombe Moor in Cornwall. It turns out that the stones, nourished by sacrifices of human blood, are disguised Ogri, an alien life form from the planet Ogros in the Tau Ceti system. Struggles follow, and there is danger, but in the end the surviving Ogri are forcibly repatriated, another segment of the Key is recovered, and all is well.
- The Powers of Matthew Star (1982–1983), television series written by David Carren et al and directed by Barry Crane et al. An intergalactic armada conquers Quadris, a planet of the Tau Ceti system. Crown prince E'Hawke escapes with his guardian and factotum D'Hai to the nearby Earth, where they assume the cover identities of Walter Shepherd and Matthew Star. Star is a typical American teenager (albeit with special powers). He has friends; people who love him. He has adolescent male fans who find in him a vehicle for vicarious wish-fulfillment.
- Earth: Final Conflict (1997–2002), Canadian television series created by Gene Roddenberry and directed by David Winning. The alien Taelons are somewhat dubiously welcomed to a refuge on the Earth, where their advanced technology ushers in a golden age. It turns out, however that this race is sterile and dying, and at the same time intent on bioengineering humanity—at the cost of human self-determination—to serve as proxy warriors in a final confrontation with their millennial hereditary enemies, the Jaridians of Tau Ceti.
Most of the items in this section are manga or light novels by Japanese authors.
- Skizz (1983–1995), comic books by Alan Moore published by 2000 AD Comics. Zhcchz, an alien interpreter and a native of Tau Ceti, crash lands on Earth and his ship self-destructs in an attempt to prevent his unauthorized contact with the primitive Earthlings—an event that turns his sedate, unexciting life into a nightmare. Alone in a strange world known to its natives as "Birmingham" where even the food is hostile to him, "Skizz" is befriended by schoolgirl Roxanne O'Rourke and several other misfits who keep him safe from the authorities.
- 2001 Nights (1984–1986), manga by Yukinobu Hoshino. 2001 Nights[note 5] is largely inspired by classic hard science fiction, with many visual homages to previous science fiction novels and films. The tale of Night 4, "Posterity" (1985), tells of an interstellar seedship that voyages from the Earth to the planet Ozma in the Tau Ceti system carrying a cargo of embryos that will form the nucleus of a new human colony.
- Sailor Moon (1992), manga by Naoko Takeuchi. The Death Busters are a group of antagonists in the Sailor Moon metaseries. Their goal is to bring the alien creature Master Pharaoh 90 to Earth, an event that would wipe out all life here. Pharaoh 90 is a malevolent monster from the Tau Ceti system, appearing as a huge, black eyeball-like sphere with tentacles.
- Bodacious Space Pirates (2008- ), light novel series written by Yūichi Sasamoto. The Colony Federation is rebelling against their colonial masters, the Stellar Alliance, seeking independence and the right of self-rule. Schoolgirl Marika Kato, born on the colony world Uminoakehoshi (Tau Ceti III, Sea of the Morning Star), assumes her father's heritage as a space pirate, under a letter of marque issued by the Federation. She's quite good at it.
- Cerberus: The Proxima Centauri Campaign (1979), strategy board game designed by Stephen V. Cole and published by Task Force Games. Humanity tries to colonize a world in the Proxima Centauri system that is already inhabited by aliens from Tau Ceti. The game revolves around ground combat between the rival races. Note that Proxima Centauri, at 4.24 light-years from Earth, is about 13.37 ly from Tau-Ceti, giving us the claim of proximity while leaving the right of prior possession to the Cetians.
- Tau Ceti is one the six star systems in the Star Trader board game (1982) set in SPI's Universe role-playing game. The others are Beta Hydri, Epsilon Eridani, Gamma Leporis, Mu Herculis, and Sigma Draconis.
- BattleTech (1984), wargame and related products launched by The FASA Corporation. Tau Ceti is the first star outside our Solar System to be explored by human beings, first by an automated interstellar Magellan probe (see graphic), and later by men who fare forth in the JumpShip TAS Pathfinder, the latter vessel being powered by a superluminal Kearny-Fuchida drive. The pioneers discover a watery earthlike world in orbit around the star, attended by a single moon (Lanna); the planet will be colonized and named New Earth.
- Tau Ceti (1985–1987, various platforms), computer game designed by Pete Cooke and published by the CRL Group. The year is 2164. A robot rebellion has sealed off Tau Ceti III, and previous attempts at retaking the planet have ended in failure. The last best chance of restoring human control is to send in a single pilot (the player) in a small ship, with the mission of infiltrating the capital city Centralis and shutting down the central reactor—the power source on which the robots depend.
- 2300 AD (1986), role-playing game published by the Game Designers' Workshop. Kwantung (Tau Ceti II) is a temperate garden-like world harboring the Manchurian colony Changpai and the Mexican colony Nuevo Angeles. The Tau Ceti system sits astride the main access route to the Latin Systems.
- Battlelords of the 23rd Century (1990), paper and pencil role-playing game designed by Lawrence R. Sims and published by Optimus Design Systems. The Galactic Alliance, spanning several galaxies, comprises twelve races (including Humans), and is run behind the scenes by large corporations that hire battlelords (the game players) to further their ends by all means legal and illegal. One of the Alliance races are the Phentari, haughty and treacherous, schizophrenic cephalopod warriors. They are methane-breathers from the cold marsh-gas world Phena in the Tau Ceti system.
- Frontier: Elite II (1993), Frontier: First Encounters (1995) and Elite: Dangerous (2014), computer games written by David Braben et al. Tau Ceti is orbited by the densely populated earthlike world known as Taylor Colony, a member of the Federation. This planet was the first permanent human settlement outside Solar System, and the first extraterrestrial planet known to support life. Tau Ceti also contains an asteroid belt close to the star, a rocky, Mercury-like world called Saunders' Claim, a metal-rich world known as Bell's Wreck, and an icy, Enceladus-like world known as Tau Ceti 4.
- Marathon (1994), first-person shooter video game developed and published by Bungie. The year is 2794. The player a security officer stationed on the Marathon, a multi-generational colony spacecraft built by hollowing out Deimos, former satellite of Mars. The Marathon has arrived in the Tau Ceti solar system and is supporting the colonization of Tau Ceti IV. As the game starts, the ship is attacked by a race of alien slavers called the Pfhor.
- Escape Velocity (1996), Escape Velocity Override (1998), and Escape Velocity Nova (2002), computer games developed and published by Ambrosia Software. The plot of the original Escape Velocity revolves around war between the Confederation government and the Rebellion against it. The game player may choose sides based on a wide variety of criteria. One of the major participants in the conflict is the Tau Ceti system, due in large part to its proximity to hyperlinks and, in the third game, wormholes. Tau Ceti remains an important center in all three games, although their plots are unrelated.
- 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. The Tau Ceti flowering, in which an experiment in planet-level sentience accidentally destroyed all animal life in the Tau Ceti system, serves as the primary argument used by the alien Progenitor Manifold Caretakers faction against launching further flowerings in other systems—such as Alpha Centauri itself.
- System Shock 2 (1999), first person action video game designed by Ken Levine and published by Electronic Arts. In the year 2114 the starship Von Braun and her military escort, the Rickenbacker, respond to a distress signal from Tau Ceti V. Once on the ground, the would-be rescuers are impressed into an alien communion that calls itself the Many—a creation of the malevolent AI, SHODAN. The player must destroy and cleanse from the ships those crew members who are in thrall to the Many, and then confront and defeat SHODAN in cyberspace.
- Earth & Beyond (2002), online role-playing game published by Electronic Arts. Three cohorts of humanity: the acquisitive, mercantile Terrans; the perfectionist, genetically-engineered Progen; and the philosophical Jenquai dwell together in the Solar System in uneasy equilibrium. The balance is shattered by the discovery of a StarGate, an artifact left by an ancient civilization. There follow war, stalemate, peace, rapid settlement of the galactic neighborhood, and domination of commerce by Terran cartels. One of the first human colonies established, and the terminus of the vast Somerled Trade Run, is the Terran outpost on Tau Ceti.[note 6]
- EVE Online (2003), MMORPG developed and published by CCP Games. The wormhole connecting mankind's second galaxy, New Eden, to the Milky Way collapses and leaves all its colonies stranded. After a dark interregnum, and some thousands of years, five spacefaring cultures arise there: the Amarr Empire, the Caldari State, the Gallente Federation, the Minmatar Republic and the Jove Directorate. Game play is concerned with the wars, rivalries, and alliances between these factions (see graphic). Although memories of the home galaxy have receded into the mists of time, it is known that the Gallente homeworld was originally settled by descendants of the French colonists of Tau Ceti.
- Pirate Galaxy * (2009). The system Tau Ceti is the home of Methanoids.
- Maia (2013), strategy simulation game by Simon Roth, described by Roth as "Dungeon Keeper meets Dwarf Fortress on a primordial alien world". In 2113 the human race began its first extra solar colonisation program. One of the targets of this endeavour was Maia. Maia, sitting a mere twelve light years away in the Tau Ceti system, was a world in flux. The colonization process had commenced almost twenty years earlier. Barrages of satellites equipped with powerful solid state lasers were placed in geosynchronous orbit around the planet. Their mission to slow and deflect major meteoric threats. The dense volcanic atmosphere was then seeded with sulfur, in an effort to calm and cool it. After a brief fourteen years of orbital terraforming, earth's political elites deemed the planet safe for human settlement, despite little being known about the surface.
- Lifeline (2015), a gamebook/choose-your-own-adventure novel that tries to do something a bit different from other games: it is designed as a game where you experience it through notifications as much as you do through the app itself, with simple A/B choices to make. It's got Apple Watch compatibility, so it's meant to be something that you can experience anywhere, at any time. It also plays off of the ways that we receive notifications on our devices, and wait for responses. 
- "Galactic Funk (Tau Ceti Mix)" (1996), fourth track on the electronica album Songs of a Dead Dreamer by DJ Spooky. The track features a guitar ostinato in the foreground, combined with hydrophonic Moog sequences in the early measures, followed by extensive mixing with humpback whale songs through the end of the piece. Note that the star Tau Ceti is in the tail of the whale (the constellation Cetus).
- A Constellation of Tau Ceti (2001), translation by George Tokarev of the Russian language satirical song В созвездии Тау Кита (1966) by Vladimir Vysotsky. Vysotsky makes fun of astronomer Frank Drake's 1960 attempted contact with the supposed inhabitants of Tau Ceti (Their bourgeois system is naughty / Their humor is nasty and dirty!) in a ballad that describes the singer's putative visit to the star, whose female inhabitants no longer need men, having turned to inoculations for procreation. He hastens home, knowing that because of time dilation several ages will have passed here, and fearing that the women of Earth will have engineered similar advances in the nonce.
Tau Ceti 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
- The calculation of the orbital radius rC of a planet C (Constance) receiving earth-level insolation from Tau Ceti, based on the modern value of its intrinsic stellar luminosity as Lτ★ = 0.52 ± 0.03 L⊙, is:
- (rC)2/(r⊕)2 = (Lτ★)/(L⊙) → (rC)2/(93×106 mi)2 = 0.52L⊙/L⊙ → (rC)2 = 0.52(93×106 mi)2 → rC = (√0.52)*93×106 mi ≳ 67×106 mi.
- Delany mistakenly identifies Tau Ceti as a red giant when, in actuality, it is a G-type star somewhat smaller than the Sun.
- The Dispossessed was published during the last year of the Vietnam War, a proxy struggle between America and the Soviet Union.
- The name Sogo for the City of Night is likely an acronym coined from Sodom and Gomorrah.
- The name of this collection of tales is heavy with allusions in both English and Japanese. The English (2001 Nights) is an obvious reference to the Arabic classic, One Thousand and One Nights (trans. e.g. Sir Richard Burton (1885)). The Japanese 2001夜物語 (Nisen'ichiya Monogatari, or 2001 Tales) recalls the seminal Japanese literary classic 源氏物語 (Genji Monogatari, or The Tale of Genji ) by Lady Murasaki (11th century).
- Compare the Somerled Trade Run to the "Great Circle" chain of corporate space stations terminating at Tau Ceti in C J Cherryh's 1981 Downbelow Station (above).
- Flynn, C; Morell, O (1997). "Metallicities and kinematics of G and K dwarfs". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 286 (3): 617–625. arXiv:astro-ph/9609017. Bibcode:1996astro.ph..9017F. doi:10.1093/mnras/286.3.617.
- Greaves, J S; Wyatt, M C; Holland, W S; Dent, W R F (2004). "The debris disc around tau Ceti: a massive analogue to the Kuiper Belt". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 351 (3): L54–L58. Bibcode:2004MNRAS.351L..54G. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2004.07957.x.
- Porto de Mello, G F; del Peloso, E F; Ghezzi, L (2006). "Astrobiologically interesting stars within 10 parsecs of the Sun". Astrobiology 6 (2): 308–331. arXiv:astro-ph/0511180. Bibcode:2006AsBio...6..308P. doi:10.1089/ast.2006.6.308. PMID 16689649.
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- Delany, Samuel R (2002). Babel 17/Empire Star. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-37-570669-0.
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- Cherryh, C J (2001). Downbelow Station. New York: DAW. p. 2. ISBN 0-756405-50-5.
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