• Question: How long would it take to get to the nearest potentially inhabitable planet?

    Asked by bryantyrrell to Arlene, Colin, David, Eugene, Paul on 14 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Paul Higgins

      Paul Higgins answered on 14 Nov 2012:

      A potentially inhabitable planet (not too hot, not too cold, like goldilocks’s porridge) was found about a week ago and is ~40 light years away, orbiting another star. That means that traveling at the speed of light, it would take 40 years to get there. Of course we can not travel anywhere close to the speed of light. I have heard estimates that with current rocket technology it would take 40 years to get to our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is only 4 light years away! So I think we need to come up with some new technology before we can get to this new planet. Also, we don’t know if the planet has a good atmosphere for life (like earth) or a bad one (like venus, which is so hot that lead would melt on the surface). And, if the planet does not have a magnetic field, the star (the Sun of that planet) could have blown away the planets atmosphere, like what happened to Mars- which is an icy desert, with very little air…

    • Photo: Colin Johnston

      Colin Johnston answered on 15 Nov 2012:

      The fastest spacecraft ever made on Earth is the New Horizons probe, launched in 2006, it will fly past Pluto in 2015. If it was aimed at Proxima Centauri (which it isn’t), the journey lasts 80 thousand years! While we sit waiting for our probe to call back I would expect us go through Global Warming, a zombie apocalypse then maybe an ice age or two, a robot uprising and probably by the end we’ll have evolved heads like space hoppers. And that is only the distance to the nearest star!