Few things are more exciting to me than the idea of finding a habitable planet somewhere out in space. Given the hundreds of now confirmed exoplanets, and the likely millions more that we have not yet found, it seems inevitable that we will find an exoplanet in the habitable zone. Part of figuring this out is understanding where the habitable zones will be.
Aside from the obvious awesomeness of the fact that people are spending time and energy figuring this stuff out, I think that the most exciting part of all this is that we are likely to find a viable planet in the habitable zone of another star sometime in the next few years.
The graphic shows habitable zone distances around various types of stars. Some of the known extrasolar planets that are considered to be in the habitable zone of their stars are also shown. On this scale, Earth-Sun distance is one astronomical unit, which is roughly 150 million kilometers.
The big question will then be what to do about it. I hope that the next step will be to point some high-powered telescopes at it and see what else we can learn.
The science fiction loving part of me is very interested to know what will happen to our own cultural assumptions if, or when, we find such evidence. If you think the anti-science crowd gets offended at the idea of an old earth and the concept of evolution, what do you think they will do with evidence that we are not as special as we used to think we were.
Mikko Kunninen’s art is awesome and yet somehow depressing in its presentation of a highly technologized existence that is completely devoid of plants and animals. That said, they are spaceships in space, so perhaps I am overthinking things.
I have no idea what NASA sees as the purpose of this video (fundraising?), but it pushes all my ‘like’ buttons so it seemed best to share it here. That said, I don’t actually think that NASA will be leading the way, I think it will be competing and somewhat chaotic private interests. Starting with some eccentric billionaires, but eventually becoming something else.
As a science fiction and futurism buff, I can only get excited at the prospect of Asteroid Mining. Not because of their plan to mine things like platinum, which is appealing enough. I like the idea because if they manage to make asteroid mining profitable, space will open up quickly and dramatically.
A major barrier to space exploration has always been cost and risk. Government agencies like NASA have been seriously constrained by the confluence of these two issues – as you reduce risk you increase cost. A zero risk effort is monstrously expensive, and NASA has been (somewhat rightly) shy of risking humans in risky ventures. Fair enough – if they lost a Mars mission full of astronauts, they would likely have to shut their doors and Mars exploration would be pushed back a generation or two.
But commercial ventures have different risk/cost ratios. If a corporation like Planetary Resources loses a robot mining craft, or even loses everything, others can and will learn from their mistakes. They can still reduce risk, but they are not required to eliminate it altogether in the way that government entities must.
This makes me very optimistic. I don’t have an attachment to any particular entity or type of organization reaching space, and I think that viable space commercialization and (possibly) colonization will be enough of a singularity that it is impossible to predict the outcomes as they apply down here on earth. But what I am enthusiastically in support of is humans expanding into space, as soon as possible.
We are an adaptable species, but we are also at our best when we have significant challenges. Space exploration is a much more interesting and exciting challenge than many of the dystopian futures current SF seems obsessed with.
This video speeds up geologic time scales to show us how the moon evolved over 4.5 Billion years. I have no clear understanding of how scientists settled on particular time frames for some of the events, but I love the visuals.
What the video does not mention is that similar processes were likely happening on Earth at the same time, which goes a long way to demonstrating how dangerous the universe can actually be.