What is “61 Cygni A”? Christopher drops first hint (his words: “spoiler”) regarding his upcoming sci-fi novel

61-cygni-a-headerChristopher Paolini is no stranger to giving fans hints, teasers, and small revelations. Last Wednesday, Christopher revealed his first “spoiler”/hint regarding his upcoming sci-fi novel: “61 Cygni A” on his personal Twitter account. How? He updated his Twitter location to the star system and let fans know that the location update was all they’d be getting out of him.

Before we dive into the hint and what it means, we want to refresh fans on this sci-fi novel. The book will be Christopher’s first published work since the release of Inheritance in 2011. Christopher recently spoke on the process of getting into writing within another universe, stating that he spent months researching and world building before beginning to write the actual story. He frequently shares completed chapter photos (no text, of course – just the back of printed pages) with fans on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s hard to gauge just how far through the book Christopher is. He also hasn’t stated whether this book will be a one-off novel or the first in a series. We do know, however, that he does plan to return to Alagaesia for a fifth book (not a part of the original Cycle) and has six other books planned and plotted within the Alagaesia universe. For more specific information on the sci-fi novel and Book 5, visit our “Book 5 and Beyond” page, where we offer a detailed look at both books including supporting quotes and interview answers from Christopher.

Onto the spoiler/hint!

Map of 61 Cygni

Map of 61 Cygni

So, what the heck is “61 Cygni A“?  It’s one of two stars that make up the 61 Cygni binary star system (a star system with two stars orbiting each other). 61 Cygni is located “relatively” close to Earth – just 11.4 light years away. Look up into the night sky and you may barely be able to make out these stars with the naked eye – they are among the least conspicuous visible stars.

Throughout the twentieth century, astronomers reported sighting a massive planet orbiting one of the system’s two stars. The object was said to have a mass eight times the size of Jupiter, taking 4.8 years to orbit 61 Cygni A. Scientists later speculated that the system included two giant planets (six and twelve Jupiter masses) orbiting 61 Cygni A and one giant planet (seven Jupiter masses) orbiting 61 Cygni B. However, modern technology has found no planets within this solar system. This could mean absolutely nothing… but it could also make for a fun story. A massive planet is there in the 20th century and later completely disappears?

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the system and any possible masses orbiting the two stars, astronomers continue to focus in on 61 Cygni. According to Wikipedia, NASA has set its sights on 61 Cygni, selecting the two stars as “Tier 1” targets for the proposed optical Space Interferometry Mission aimed at detecting smaller planets (with as little as three Earth masses). Inspiration for another story idea?

61 Cygni isn’t a new location for sci-fi stories. The binary system spawned multiple popular novels throughout the 1950s (in the midst of speculation surrounding potential masses orbiting the two stars). 61 Cygni was continued to be the subject of books, roleplaying games, television shows, and video games throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Popular titles include Mission of Gravity (novel, Hal Clement), Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space (children’s book, Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams), Tricentennial (short story, Joe Haldeman), Earth & Beyond (online RPG game, EA Games), and more.

Christopher has also hinted at the book in other, less obvious updates. He recently mentioned researching and understanding FTL (Faster-than-light) technology, a sci-fi technology that allows for lightspeed and space jumping travel seen in popular sci-fi books, movies, and shows. Keen readers can find hints throughout his many tweets discussing researching solar systems, technology, drawing 2D star maps, and more.

Let the speculation begin: Will the characters in Christopher’s new sci-fi book have come from Earth, using FTL technology to jump to 61 Cyngi? Alternatively, will life from 61 Cygni be visiting Earth? Will the book have anything to do with the planets once-suspected to be orbiting around the binary system’s two stars? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.