As the year comes to an end most people do one of two things. They either look back on this past year or they look forward to the following year. My view has always been that the religious were more apt to focus on the past, while science-minded atheists were more likely to look to the future. With that in mind, I’m going to do that latter… sort of.
A few weeks ago, astronomers in University of New South Wales in Australia discovered a new planet that might be capable of supporting human life. While astronomers have found similar planets in the past, this one is only 14 light-years away. Wolf 1061c is four times the size of Earth and is located in the goldilocks zone of its star. The bad news is that the planet’s gravity is about one and a half times that of Earth and that the planet rotates at roughly the same speed as it revolves around its star. What that means is that everything would be one and a half times heavier than they are on Earth (including you) and that a little less than half the planet would always be facing its sun while a little less than half the planet would be in constant darkness (great for vampires). If you lived on one side of the planet you would melt and on the other side, you would freeze. However, there is a twilight area where you could live (hopefully without sparkling). Because the planet is so large, that area might actually be larger than one might suspect.
Here’s the good news. While Wolf 1061c might not be a paradise, it is a potentially habitable world… at least part of it. 14 light-years is pretty close, but since we don’t yet have light speed capability, it would take us about 140 years to get there using beam-powered propulsion and a solar sail. That sounds like a lot, but it actually might be do-able.
Colonizing Mars would certainly be a closer alternative, but we would have to build domes and basically never walk outside without a space suit. Wolf 1061c would be harder to get to, but conditions on the planet might be better suited for human life.
Still, there are a lot of “mights.” We just discovered this place and we really need to know more about it but it certainly is interesting and exciting. Here is a planet we could actually live on that is just two or three generations away from us. Oh, and Wolf 1061d (the neighboring planet in the solar system) might also be habitable. It lies just outside the goldilocks zone, but might still work for us. With any luck, by New Year’s Eve 2156, we could be exploring a whole new world. Of course, the planet circles its sun about every 18 days, so New Year’s comes pretty often on Wolf 1061c. Make your resolutions easy, because you won’t have long to fulfill them.
- Where Will Society Be In 100 Years? (skepticink.com)
- Dawn Of The Future (skepticink.com)
- How Much Is The Future Worth? (skepticink.com)
- Transformers Rescue Bot Answers The Meaning of Life (skepticink.com)