Zeta Reticuli, a dim binary system of Sun-like stars only 39.5 light years away in the little constellation of Reticulum is strangely well-known. Why is it so famous? This system was once identified as the home of the little grey-faced and black-eyed humanoids who allegedly abducted Barney and Betty Hill and ever since has appeared in popular culture as the quintessential location of extraterrestrial mystery. What do we really know about these stars?
The twin stars of Zeta 2 Reticuli can be seen to the right. (image credit: Google Sky)
Reticulum (the net or eyepiece reticule) is a constellation of the southern hemisphere’s sky (we cannot see it from Northern Ireland). Diamond-shaped, the constellation lacks bright stars and is apparently an unimpressive sight. Only just visible to the unaided eye, Zeta Reticuli was first referred to as such in 1756. Can I just repeat that Zeta Reticuli has been seen in the sky without a telescope for centuries. Anyone who tells you it was discovered until after the Hill’s story became famous is utterly wrong.
Through a telescope Zeta Reticuli can be clearly seen to be two stars (you can do this without a telescope if the sky ...