Recently, NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets, three of which are in the “habitable zone,” a distance from their star with temperatures that would allow liquid water, and thus might support life or have life.
This is exciting stuff. As a sci-fi author, I write about life on fictional planets inhabited by sexy “do-able” humanoid aliens. It’s pretty cool to think that there might actually be a planet where intelligent life might actually exist. Now, I know it doesn’t. I probably have a better chance of wining the lottery multiple times over than we have to find humanoid life, but it’s fun to think about (just like it’s fun to think about winning the lottery).
The seven planets are exoplanets, which means they’re located outside our solar system–far out of our solar system. Their star, TRAPPIST-1, is located 40 light years away.
Light moves at 186,000 miles per second; that’s 6 trillion miles (5.88) in a year. So 40 light years is 240 trillion miles. How far is that? To put it in perspective, the Earth is about 93 million miles away from our sun. By my mathematical calculation, that puts TRAPPIST-1 2,580,645 times farther away than the distance from us to the sun. So we’re going to need a wormhole or FTL travel to get there.
(The sun is 8 light minutes away from us. The moon is 1 light second).
Some immediate thoughts:
First, the whole water thing. Why is water necessary for life? We need water to survive, but maybe some other life form doesn’t. Maybe there are real live “dust bunnies” on other planets. By assuming life needs water, I think we are taking the little bit of scientific knowledge that we have about the known world and extrapolating it to the rest of the universe, and I don’t know that that is accurate. Maybe it is. I really don’t know. But I guess if you’re looking for life, you have to start somewhere.
What are we trying to accomplish with space exploration and the search for life? Do want to find life just because we’re curious, and it’s a cool thing to do? Are we looking to further our knowledge of our own origins? Are we looking for a new planet to inhabit? What is our goal? I don’t know the answer to those questions either.
What if we end up annihilating ourselves? What if we discover an alien microbe and it wipes us out? Or intelligent life that wipes us out? My feeling is that if there is intelligent life out there, it’s going to find us before we find them. Given the lessons of history, instead of jumping up and down, waving and yelling, “Here we are!” we might be better served to turn out all the lights and pretend we’re not home. (Just sayin’. I actually think the search for life is pretty cool).
Nor can we expect that we would act benevolently. European explorers and colonists decimated native American populations. Some of the early interaction started out friendly. History has a way of repeating itself. We can’t get along with other nations–or even our fellow countrymen who voted differently than we did. What makes us think we could get along with aliens?
So those are the things I think about when I hear about new planetary discoveries. What do you think about?
Speaking of intelligent life…here’s the kind of sexy, hunky extraterrestrial I envision finding…ALIEN MATE…coming in April
Not only did my Earth government fail to protect me from the syndicate that wants me dead, they convicted me of a crime and packed me onto a ship with other female felons and sent me to a frozen primitive wasteland of a planet to become an alien’s mate. Earth needs Dakon’s minerals; Dakon is desperate for females after a catastrophe killed them off. As soon as my appeal comes, I’m outta here. I have no desire to be some barbarian’s “mail order bride,” even if he is super tall, muscular, and the chief of his tribe. Besides, he doesn’t want me either. His disappointment is written all over his chiseled alien face. His people are desperate for women, and he doesn’t like me? Well, fine! Mr. Law-and-Order would be more than disappointed if he learned what my crime was. He’d banish me into the wilderness, because that’s what they do to lawbreakers on Dakon. To stay safe, I’ll keep quiet and make the best of things until I can get back to Earth. There’s no chance I’ll fall in love with Mr. Hard-Bodied Alien and want to stay on Dakon. No way.