20 light years from Earth slumbers the red dwarf star Gliese
581. Today a team of astronomers announced an astonishing discovery-- the
star has a planet
which is potentially habitable by humanity.
Over 200 so-called "exoplanets"
-- planets outside our own solar system -- have already been found. But
so far, all of them have suffered from the "goldilocks problem,"
either too hot, too cold, or far too massive to support life.
But the new planet, which so far is only being
called "c," is different. It has an atmosphere, liquid water, a
surface temperature estimated to range from 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is roughly five times as massive as the earth but, due to a larger diameter,
has a surface gravity only1.6 times that the Earth's. It's also much
closer to its parent star, having a 'year' only 13 days long. The view
from the surface would be spectacular, with the planet's sun appearing in the
sky some 20 times larger than does our moon.
"On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be
tempted to mark this planet with an X", says report co-author Xavier
Delfosse of Grenoble University. "Liquid water is critical to life as we
know it. Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet
will most probably be a very important target of future space missions
dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life."
The team examined 100 different stars using the HARPS planet searcher
at the European Southern Observatory in the Chilean Alps.
quote: 20ly is nothing... compared to our galaxy's 100 000and to really be realistic, traveling quite close to light speed is actually possible. with an engine capable of providing 1g acceleration/deceleration (switching in midpoint) for a long time, i.e. some nuclear photon propulsion, we can cross the whole galaxy in less than 25 years (traveler's time). isn't time dilation a great thing? yes, that would still be more than 100 000 years earth time, but so what?in the case of going just 20ly from here, again with a comfortable 1g acceleration, we'd need as little as 6 years of proper-time travel. 3 years of 1g acceleration will take us to a velocity more than 0.995 c.we don't even need to get that close to c for distances this small.... a constant 1g acceleration for just 320 days will get us to the more feasibly-sounding 0.7 c, which still is enough to reach this planet in under 30 years earth time. time dilation won't be that big, so the traveler's time will be around 22 years.the bullet-issue you mentioned is indeed a show stopper with current tech, but be sure it will be solved. it might be some sort of armour or deflector shield or just picking a route relatively far from stars and matter concentrations... but there will be a solution.