Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We are not alone?

Potentially habitable planet found: For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for "life in the universe."

The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a "red dwarf," is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.

There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is known about it. And it's worth noting that scientists' requirements for habitability count Mars in that category: a size relatively similar to Earth's with temperatures that would permit liquid water. However, this is the first outside our solar system that meets those standards.

"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the planet. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."

OK...So might be potentially habitable unless it is deemed inhospitable to life. Talk about wiggle room.

Maybe, if there is life on the planet, that life could be intelligent. You know the requirements, of course, for intelligence - able to reason , assess and rationalize the data, not suggest that a single square of TP could have the potential to save the environment even if it contributes to epidemic proportions of diaper rash. {Sorry folks, I had to get my diggs in.}

In all seriousness, this is a major discovery. Now we know that there is a planet that has similar climates as Earth does and has the possibility to be able to support life. While it is all speculation, there is the possibility that it could support life. At 20 light years away the planet is too far away to explore with current technology.

However, the theory of relativity allows that an object could travel at a substantial fraction of the speed of light if the technology could be developed. At a speed of 1/4th c, Planet 581C could be reached in 80 - 100 years. This is within a human lifetime overall.

A colony that chooses to leave the Earth to travel to 581C that consisted of people with a range of ages from children to the elderly could conceivably arrive where the teenagers and young adults are grandparents and the children are now parents themselves. Of course this would be a permanent move. One way. With very little ability to communicate with the homeworld (unless we discover/invent a way to transmit information on light waves) this colony would be on its own. This has not happened since Columbus sailing in the wrong direction for the East Indies and found the new world.

Someday the stuff of science fiction novels can become a reality. Not because we can image it so but because it may actually exist.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Spectacular Hubble Image Of Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672