Life on the Goldilocks Planets
So-called Goldilocks planets have orbits believed to be in a “habitable zone,” making them candidates for life as we know it. Recently, several new Goldilocks planets have been discovered, many by the Kepler satellite (shut down in May 2013 due to mechanical problems). Here’s a quick primer on the planets as well as some musings as what it might take for us to get there.
Distance from Earth: 2,700 light years
Discovered: 2013 by the Kepler satellite
What it’s Like: Kepler-69c is about 1.7 times the size of earth and its 242-day orbit is similar to that of Venus. Its composition is uncertain.
How to Get There: If we could ever engineer a safe way to travel very close to the speed of light, time dilation effects would make the journey to Kepler-69c almost instantaneous for those on board. However, those of us left on earth would never hear from the passengers again.
Distance from Earth: 20 light years
Discovered: 2010 by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii
What it’s Like: Gliese 581g was the first potentially habitable planet discovered (though some still questioned its existence). It is believed to be rocky, with a radius 1.65 times that of earth.
For more, check out this feature about the innovations and conversations surrounding space as the next habitable frontier.
How to Get There: At 20 light years away, Gliese is relatively close. If we had a spaceship that could travel at half the speed of light (traveling faster might be fatal), we could get an astronaut there in about 40 years, earth time. Thanks to the effects of time dilation, the trip would be slightly shorter for those on board.
HD 85512 b
Distance from Earth: 36 light years
Discovered: 2011 with the HARPS telescope in Chile
What it’s Like: Little is known about this planet, except that its mass is about 3.6 times that of earth and that it orbits its star in the habitable zone. Whether it could support life as we know it depends on what it’s made of and what kind of atmosphere it has, if any.
How to Get There: At 36 light years away, this potential outpost is still pretty close. A ship that goes half the speed of light is probably the best bet.
Distance from Earth: 22.2 light years
Discovered: 2012 with the HARPS telescope in Chile
What it’s Like: Gliese 667Cc has a mass about 4.5 times that of earth and orbits a dim red dwarf sun. It also is probably tidally locked, meaning it has one surface that always faces its sun. Its radius is unknown, so we don’t know how strong gravity is on the planet.
How to Get There: Again, some kind of nonfatal half-light speed space travel might work. Though attempted phone calls with our colonists would suffer from an annoying, 22-year delay.
Distance from Earth: 600 light years
Discovered: 2011 by the Kepler satellite
What it’s Like: This was the first planet Kepler discovered. It has a radius about 2.4 times earth’s, and orbits its star in the livable zone, but it’s unclear if its composition is rocky, gaseous, or liquid.
How to Get There: even a ship that goes half the speed of light wouldn’t be able to transport astronauts to Kepler-22b within a human lifetime. Maybe we can put space colonists in suspended animation?
For more, check out this feature discussing space as the next habitable frontier.
What if Simply Playing Soccer Could Power a Whole Village? Uncharted Play's Soccket balls ingeniously turn kinetic energy into electric current.
Next Time You're at a Pretentious Exhibition, Just Change It Güvenç Özel shows how a digital solution can augment a physical problem.
A Mosaic Shines in Philly A intimate conversation with a fixture of the Philadelphia art world.
Zaha Hadid Had a Busier Week Than You Did A posh homeware line, a math-inspired museum wing, and a blossom-shaped apartment building
London Skaters Fought Gentrification, and Won A coalition of skateboard enthusiasts just saved the birthplace of British skate culture from a future as a shopping center.
“What I Would Like to See is More Bystanders Stepping in to Take Action” The Everyday Sexism Project chronicles more than 80,000 instances of sexism around the world, and it’s making a big policy impact.
It's Not Where You're Going, It's How you Get There The future of transportation is now A look at futuristic forms of transportation that have become reality.
Inside the Minds of 11-Year Olds From Around the World A new documentary probes the special moral clarity of 11-year old children.
This Underwater Museum is Bringing a Coral Reef to Life A collaborative effort spurs a marine project off the coast of Egypt.
“French Navy” and Other Suggestions for Scotland’s New National Anthem EDM, art rock, indie ballads … let’s pretend it’s all on the table if Scotland votes for independence.
How a 17th Century Bible is Helping to Revive a Native-American Language One human language may die every 14 days, but the ancenstral tongue of M.I.T.-trained linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird won't be one of them.
Thank You For Caffeinating The dirty secret behind your favorite soft drink America’s $75 billion love affair with soft drinks has less to do with flavor than a specific, notorious ingredient.