Altair (Alpha Aquilae, Alpha Aql, α Aquilae, α Aql, Atair) is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and the twelfth brightest star in the night sky. It is currently in the G-cloud. Altair is located 16.7 light-years (5.13 parsecs) from Earth and is one of the closest stars visible to the naked eye. Along with Beta Aquilae and Gamma Aquilae, it forms the well-known line of stars sometimes referred to as the Family of Aquila or Shaft of Aquila.
Altair is a type-A main sequence star with approximately 1.8 times the mass of the Sun and 11 times its luminosity. Altair possesses an extremely rapid rate of rotation; it has a rotational period of approximately 9 hours. For comparison, the equator of the Sun requires just over 25 days for a complete rotation. This rapid rotation forces Altair to be oblate; its equatorial diameter is over 20 percent greater than its polar diameter.
Satellite measurements made in 1999 with the Wide Field Infrared Explorer showed that the brightness of Altair fluctuates slightly, varying by less than a thousandth of a magnitude. As a result, it was identified in 2005 as a δ Scuti variable star. Its light curve can be approximated by adding together a number of sine waves, with periods that range between 0.8 and 1.5 hours.
Altair in Space Opera
- The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing? (2009), Star Trek: Enterprise? relaunch novel written by Michael A. Martin as part of the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry. The planet Altair VI? has been attacked by the Romulans twice. The first attack was blocked by the warships Columbia, Heinlein, and Kon-Tiki, and the second was defeated by a task force led by the starship Endeavour.
- "Amok Time?" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series? written by Theodore Sturgeon?. Suffering through his first infliction of pon farr, the Vulcan? biological mating urge, Spock must return to Vulcan to marry his betrothed or he will perish. Solicitous of his first officer, Captain James Kirk diverts the USS Enterprise from its original destination, Altair VI?, so that he can deliver Spock to his home planet.
- 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 holodeck 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 he 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? As the scenario unfolds, the damaged spacecraft reports that they are "nineteen periods out of Altair VI," the closest starport to the disaster and a possible haven if the Kobayashi Maru can be succored.
- "Encounter at Farpoint?" (1987), two-hour pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Gene Roddenberry? and directed by Corey Allen?. Captain Picard and the crew of the newly built USS Enterprise-D examine the mysterious Farpoint Station?, which the enigmatic Bandi? are offering to the Federation—all while he labors under the judgmental gaze of a powerful alien entity that calls itself Q. At Farpoint, Picard wants to fire on a mysterious hostile craft, but is warned off by Q, so he sends an away team instead. In an "establishing" conversation for the new series we learn that Captain Robert DeSoto of the USS Hood was once ordered not to beam down to the surface of the planet Altair III? with an away team because the excursion was considered too dangerous, and inappropriate for a commanding officer.
- "Prophet Motive?" (1995), episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? written by Ira Steven Behr? and Robert Hewitt Wolfe?, and directed by René Auberjonois?. In the episode, Zek, a Grand Nagus of the venal and acquisitive Ferengi?, has a change of heart and turns to a spirit of kindness and giving—a development so out of character that it alarms the medical staff, including Julian Bashir, the chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine?. A sub-plot has Bashir nominated for the prestigious Carrington Award for medicine, which he ends up not winning. In the episode's back-story, Doctor Henri Roget of the Central Hospital of Altair IV? was a recipient of the same award in 2371.
- Mentioned in The Heroic Myth of Lt. Nora Argamentine, Known Space Universe
- Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure? (1989), stage and audio play written by Terrance Dicks, based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. The story involves an alliance between the Daleks? and the Cybermen? who have joined forces to kidnap the American Envoy and ruin a peace conference on Earth. Doctor Who and his companions fail to foil the plot, but follow the trail of the kidnappers to Altair III?, and then the Bar Galactica and points beyond.
- "Tin Man?" (1998), episode #19 of Stargate SG-1? written by Jeff F. King? and directed by Jimmy Kaufman?. 11,000 years ago, the inhabitants of the planet Altair (P3X-989?) were forced underground by deadly radiation, and eventually transferred their minds into exact android duplicates to survive. By the time SG-1 visits their planet, only one Altarian remains: Harlan, who creates android replicas of the Earth team to aid him. When this is discovered, the androids must remain on Altair, and the real SG-1 returns home.
- Frontier: Elite II? (1993) and Frontier: First Encounters? (1995), computer games written by David Braben et al. The Altair system is home to a single habitable Federation world that boasts a profitable tourism industry.
- Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares? (1996), 4X turn-based strategy game developed by Simtex and published by MicroProse. The homeworld of the avian Alkari? race orbits a star named Altair by default.
- Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War? (1998), computer game developed by Volition, Inc. and published by Interplay Entertainment. Space war rages between the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance and the brutal Shivans?. At certain points during gameplay, monologues by members of an extinct race, the Ancients, are told in pre-rendered cutscenes. The Ancients inhabited the Altarian system some 8000 years ago, leaving behind the massive ruins of the Temple of Altair on Altair V?, until they were annihilated by the Shivans; with an undertone of sadness they detail those events, suggesting the long history of the Shivans' actions and their effects on developing sentient species.
- Galactic Civilizations? (2003), strategy video game developed by Stardock and published by Strategy First. One of the five major races in the game is the Altarian Resistance?, psychic humanoids inhabiting the Altair system who possess a very practical morality: They are quick to destroy any "Evil" civilization unless it is a lucrative trading partner. The Altarians are opposed by the reptilian—and Pure Evil—Drengin Empire?.
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