One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth

Aug 31, 2016

By Kenneth Chang

Another Earth could be circling the star right next door to us.

Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star’s “Goldilocks zone,” where it may be neither too hot nor too cold. That means liquid water could exist at the surface, raising the possibility for life.

Although observations in recent years, particularly by NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, have uncovered a bounty of Earth-size worlds throughout the galaxy, this one holds particular promise because it might someday, decades from now, be possible to reach. It’s 4.2 light-years, or 25 trillion miles, away from Earth, which is extremely close in cosmic terms.


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8 comments on “One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth

  • There’s plenty of information some real and a most not regarding the time it will take to go pretty much anywhere of significance in the universe; that is, significant enough for the survival of the human species. Other than that it is just the curiosity about the uninhabitable cruelty of space, which appears to be just about everything out there.

    So as delightful as these discoveries are that there might be a new home reasonably close, it’s such a stretch as to call it fantasy for humans to travel so far and survive the trip. The real deal is can we save the only place we can live on? We aren’t going anywhere for a long, long, long time. Even if we could we have to survive ourselves first, and there are serious doubts that we can do that. We are on the edge of runaway global warming, by far the most serious problem in the history of our evolution, with mass extinctions already happening on our watch.

    It’s great to have these discoveries, I can’t get enough of it and they are incredibly exciting. But reality, where I live, says we are going nowhere for a very long time and we better deal with it and save the only place we can realistically survive for the next tens of thousands of years.



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  • PY #1
    Aug 31, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Even if we could we have to survive ourselves first, and there are serious doubts that we can do that. We are on the edge of runaway global warming, by far the most serious problem in the history of our evolution, with mass extinctions already happening on our watch.

    You are quite correct that for the bulk of the human population, Earth is likely to be their only home, and preserving it in a sustainable condition should be a priority.

    It’s great to have these discoveries, I can’t get enough of it and they are incredibly exciting. But reality, where I live, says we are going nowhere for a very long time and we better deal with it and save the only place we can realistically survive for the next tens of thousands of years.

    However, for a small number of explorers seeking new human colonies, humans are likely, with suitable motivation, to colonise exoplanets of other stars, within a thousand years, and set up off-Earth human bases, within decades or centuries.

    The way forward is asteroid and comet mining, and possibly exploiting some of the moons of the outer Solar-System.

    The bulk of this work is likely to be done by robotic systems, but some of these can support human bases. Energy can be provided by nuclear power-plants in the outer Solar System and by Solar energy in the inner System.
    In addition, human bases and ships need water and mineral materials – all of which are to be found in the ices and rocks of meteors, asteroids, comets, moons, Kuiper-Belt and Oort-Cloud objects.
    Water can also be used for screening the interior of ships from radiation, while underground bases also provide screening.

    This newly discovered planet orbiting Proxima Centauri is probably unlikely to provide Earth-like conditions, but it indicates there are planets orbiting nearby stars.
    As with many stars, exoplanets nearest to the star are easiest to find, so there could be many more yet to be discovered in more distant orbits.

    It would appear that there are exploitable icy Oort Cloud objects as far out as half way to the Centauri Star-Systems, so humans could provision and fuel star-ships from robot operated bases mining and processing materials on these. Humans could also hop from base to base throughout the moons and objects of the outer solar-System moving outward a step at a time.

    We do not yet know if other stars have usable objects in distant orbits, but it seems increasingly probable.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37223076
    Astronomers in the US have uncovered previously unknown objects in the outer reaches of the Solar System.

    They include an icy body with an orbit that takes it so far from the Sun that it is probably influenced by the gravity of other stars.



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  • http://www.centauri-dreams.org/

    In Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster looks at peer-reviewed research on deep space exploration, with an eye toward interstellar possibilities. For the last nine years, this site has coordinated its efforts with the Tau Zero Foundation, and now serves as the Foundation’s news forum. In the logo above, the leftmost star is Alpha Centauri, a triple system closer than any other star, and a primary target for early interstellar probes. To its right is Beta Centauri (not a part of the Alpha Centauri system), with Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon Crucis, stars in the Southern Cross, visible at the far right



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  • What is exciting is not that we’ve located the possibility of a new home but that an Earth analogue just might be so close to us. In the larger picture, it seems such Earth 2.0’s are more prevelant in our galaxy than anyone imagined even 10 years ago. Physics and chemistry being the same everywhere, what happened on Earth, i.e., life, is likely to have happened in many other places. That we keep discovering Earth-like planets keeps increasing the probability that intelligent life is out there, which is a fantastic notion.

    Going back to the idea of a second home, I strongly echo the sentiments expressed by others here that we focus on protecting the one we have, which from an environmental and political perspective is looking very much in danger.

    Carl Kruse



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  • Carl Kruse #7
    Sep 3, 2016 at 9:59 am

    What is exciting is not that we’ve located the possibility of a new home but that an Earth analogue just might be so close to us. In the larger picture, it seems such Earth 2.0’s are more prevelant in our galaxy than anyone imagined even 10 years ago.

    We should not assume that earth-size planets are earth like planets. The Earth-Moon System is a very rare form of a long-term stable rocky planet.

    Physics and chemistry being the same everywhere,

    While the laws of physics are the same, the chemistry certainly is not. As heavy elements are only formed and thrown into space in super nova explosions, metalicity is a key feature in the proportions of elements in the chemistry of stars and planets.
    Centauri star-systems appear to have a slightly greater proportion of heavy elements, and older stars than the Solar-System.

    what happened on Earth, i.e., life, is likely to have happened in many other places.

    Given the vast numbers of stars and galaxies, it may well have done, but the mapping of stellar and galactic habitable zones, identifies many places where life is very unlikely.

    That we keep discovering Earth-like planets keeps increasing the probability that intelligent life is out there, which is a fantastic notion.

    I need to again reiterate, that only a tiny proportion of Earth size planets are likely to be Earth-like planets. Many will lack stabilising large moons, and will be tidally locked, with one face locked in perpetual daylight. Tidally locked Earth-size moons orbiting large planets may fair better in this respect and have a narrower surface temperature range.

    They would also need protective atmospheres, magnetic fields. and undisturbed near circular orbits, around stars which themselves have nuclear reactions which are stable long-term.

    I suspect that if there is extra terrestrial life, it is probably widely dispersed in the universe, with vast distances separating examples of it.

    Having said that, metal rich stars tend to form in clusters within the larger galaxies, so some planets with potential for life may be orbiting around stars of a similar composition to each other.
    Low metalicity stars and planets, would lack the chemistry necessary for life.

    For a planet to evolve even simple life, it needs a very long term stable system (millions of years) in a habitable zone.
    BUT, as far as space travel goes, even a century or two of stable conditions may suffice for establishing resupply bases which can be used as stepping stones to more distant places.



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