Beta Aquilae (β Aql) is a star system - a real one - some 44.7 light years from Sol - about 13.7 parsecs. It can be found, from Earth, at a right ascension of 19 hours, 55.313 minutes and a declination of 6 degrees, 24.4'. It also bears the more traditional name of Alshain, apparently derived from the Persian "as-sahin" or 'the falcon' - implied, 'the peregrine falcon.' It is part of a constellation known as Aquila, or 'the eagle.' As it is the second-brightest (viewed from Earth) in the constellation, it received the name 'Beta Aquilae.' Note that it also has a faint red dwarf companion star around 175 AU distant, which might (technically) make it the somewhat confusing 'β Aquilae α' - although I've not seen it referred to by this name.

It has a mass of approximately 1.3 Sol, and is a G-class star, burning at about 5400 Kelvin. As a subgiant star, it has a dead core of helium which has finished fusing its hydrogen fuel - given its mass, it will likely expand into a giant star as the helium zone expands. It has a magnitude of 3.71.

This star system shows up in fiction at least thrice. Although real-life observation has not detected any perturbations in its path which would suggest the presence of planets, that hasn't stopped humans from making 'em up. The Terran Trade Authority book Spacewreck has an entry dedicated to The Warworld of Alshain, which is identified as Alshain IV. On this world, TTA explorers find a surface strewn with the endless high-tech wreckage of a planet-wide war, and a primitive cannibal race living among the ruins. On further examination, this broken remnant is determined to be the survivors of the planetary civilization which reduced itself to savagery. The cautionary lesson was quite familiar, and struck home, to the 1970s Cold War readers of Spacewreck.

In the Star Trek canon, the ST:TNG episode "Eye of the Beholder" (Season 7, ep. 18) mentions that β Aquilae II is a human-populated world which contains a Starfleet training facility.

Finally, the game Descent: Freespace lists Alshain as the site of the Terran-Vasudan treaty which underpins the political structure of the game.

Sources:

  • Jim Kaler on STARS - http://www.astro.uiuc.edu/~kaler/sow/alshain.html
  • The Memory Alpha website entry on Beta Aquilae II
  • Stewart Cowley, Spacewreck: Ghost ships and derelicts of Space. New York: Exeter Books, 1979
  • http://www.universetoday.com/guide-to-space/constellations/aquila/

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