In the search for stars that can support Earth-like planets, red dwarfs in our galactic neighborhood may lead the way to discovery. Recent research reveals red dwarf stars might host more habitable planets in close orbits than previously thought--just as long as its exoplanets huddle in close enough for light (but not so close that molten lava blankets the surface).
Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics took a second look at planetary data from NASA's Kepler telescope because NASA had overestimated the size and temperature of red dwarf stars. Courtney Dressing, a Harvard astronomer, adjusted the data and started looking for planets similar in size and temperature to Earth. Based on her calculations, 6 percent of the 75 billion red dwarf stars studied could have an Earth-like planet, which may not sound like a lot but it's the first time scientists could pin an actual number on these kind of exoplanets.
Why is this important? Because red dwarfs swarm the Milky Way galaxy, particularly around our solar system (they make up roughly 75 percent of stars in the Milky Way). That means, statistically, the closest Earth-like planets may be as few as 13 light years away. Unlike the recently discovered exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri system, these planets could potentially support life.
Not that a red dwarf star would make for terribly hospitable places, unless other conditions intervened. With a smaller star, planets orbit closer, and when they orbit closely, they stop spinning. That means one side of the planet could be perpetual day, while the other side is perpetual night. Nearby planets could help unlock the gravitational pull, while winds might distribute heat across the surface of a habitable planet. Ultraviolet flares could also pummel the surface of the planet if the atmosphere isn't thick enough, or the ocean deep enough. And unlike our sun, red dwarfs don't shine nearly as much in the visual spectrum. But Dressing told PopSci that the close orbit could mean more star shine for the exoplanet, increasing the habitability.
Still, the search is on, and Dressing has some targets in view that could be added to the short list of best places to live in the universe. Next, Dressing will hone in on three planet candidates, roughly 300 to 600 light years away, just outside our neighborhood.
"Close"? The nearest is 13 light years, only 78 trillion miles away. At the speed we launched men to the moon, it would take more than 356,000 years to get there. Pack a lunch.
Mmmmm. Lunch. Tang. It's what astronauts drink.
Still if we could make a probe travel at just half the speed of light it would get there in less time it took voyager to reach the edge of our solar system.
This is the difference between science and religion. Can we find them, how do we reach them... we do not know yet, but we will keep trying to find a solution. Thank you science for making our world a brighter place.
We'll be viewing the cosmos in our life time. It will be generations later that will actually do the traveling to other planet,....... if it is at all possible.
Traveling to other planets would seem a lot more achievable if we actually devoted a significant amount of resources to accomplishing it.
Its just that some people think there are more important things than the secrets of the universe. Like fighting over whose imaginary friend is better.
We need to obliterate religion, hate and greed, and create a truly moral society. Then maybe humans will have a chance to reach our full potential.
Doesn't seem likely right now though. Sensible people are outnumbered 1000 to 1.
Havnt you watched South Park? If you obliterate religion humans will still find something stupid to fight over. Its not religion that the problem, its human nature.
@killerT - You need to get your heads out of the clouds and smell the stale coffee of reality (That was pretty good... I should write teen fiction... can't be worse than Twilight!) You can't remove human nature and tribalism is human nature. It's not religion, money, race, gender or nationality that causes problems, it's that we will ALWAYS find a way to segment ourselves and drop into an 'us and them' mentality. It is the primary driver of teenage behavior and it doesn't go away as we get older.
Ironically, you're doing it in your post. You section yourself into the 'sensible' group, and what an exclusive group it is!
Accept the flaws and work within them. Don't use them as an excuse not to excel.
The Bible is one source of answers, Science is another. Faith and Science, they both explain the same things, just differently. Science & Religion go hand in hand. What you cannot explain with Science, you can explain with faith, and vice versa.
What we need to obliterate are the religious extremists who take their religion out of context, who use it to murder people and cause hate, violence, and suffering. Religion isn't the problem, extremists and fanatics are.
Thousands of years ago religion brought humanity together. People started cherishing their dead, burying their dead, respecting their dead, mourning their dead. This brought people together. Humans started gathering in groups, hunting together, gathering food together, and eventually this led to agriculture/farming. Towns were created, cities were created, humanity began to prosper. Religion played an important part in humanities history.
Today it still brings people together, and teaches good morals and values. Religion is not the problem, the extremists are, killing in the name of their god.
Oh, I forgot to comment about the article. Excellent news! I hope I'll get to see us Humans colonize another planet within my lifetime!
The biggest limiting factor for us right now, is political posturing. Politics will shift in focus for national objectives as time changes (for all nations). If humanity's destiny is the cosmos, national government will not be the sole vessel of transportation (metaphorically speaking) for us to achieve it. It will take a person or group of people who are dedicated to creating the legacy that will move humanity forward. However, in order to do this one has to realize creating the legacy means you will not be alive to see the end result.
We must understand that we won't travel to the stars, but starting now, rather 'waiting for the world to change first' our descendants will travel to the stars thus allowing our race to ultimately survive and endure long beyond this star system's expiration date.
Private enterprise can do better because they exist for a sole purpose. With government support, private enterprise has a better chance of success. However, if you leave it to government alone, you only get results as good as what the economy and government spending is worth. This creates limits not mention dead ends due to the shift in national interest which would also effect government spending.
Conclusively, to reach the goal of reaching these places it takes unwavering dedication, hard work along multiple generations, but most of all patience. Reaching out beyond this planet is not a business proposal to be met at the quickest timeline to meet a production quota. For these things at the best quality, you have to wait until the masterpiece is done (leading that science is an art as well). You must also be willing to take the risk and not stray from the path when something bad happens (and it will; Murphy's Law). You must be willing to sacrifice because extraordinary things come at a price, and often it is extremely high in as many ways that apply to such. Only then might the human race reach the stars.