How Cozy Is the Astronomical Neighborhood

 

Hubbel telescope finds galaxy from the time of the Big Bang

I have no idea how to interpret this.  I just thought it looked cool.

I read this morning that astronomers have discovered a nearby star with seven earth sized planets circling the dwarf star.  At 40 light years distant it is in the astronomical neighborhood.  Compared to some of the other discovered exoplanets that is close.  But how far is close?  Should we be saving our money for an excursion to one of these planets?  Will there be residents there to welcome us?  Will we need visas?

Here are a few facts.  The fastest craft earthlings have so far devised was the Juno probe.  There is an effect often spoken of in science fiction in which small bodies like a spacecraft use a larger bodies gravitational pull like a sling-shot.  As a craft nears a planet the size of Jupiter its speed picks up, and done right the craft can by-pass the planet and be whipped on at an accelerated speed.

Juno used that effect and when it left the pull of Jupiter to go off toward deep space it was moving at about 165,000 mph.  So, that’s faster than my Toyota, and faster than the speed of sound by a lot.  How does Juno’s speed compare to the speed of light?

Light travels at roughly 670,616,629 mph.  A light year is the distance that light would travel in a year going at that speed.  How does our Juno spacecraft compare?  How many years would it take us to go that far?

If my math is right (Math is not my strong suit. Please tell me that I’m wrong) it would take us 4,064 years and four months to go one light year catapulted past Jupiter, and to go forty light years would take us 162,572 years.  To put into perspective how long that is, that is about the time in the past that the hypothetical mitochondrial Eve lived.

Unless we find a wormhole – to date only a theoretical construct – and figure out how to dodge through it to cut the distance to another planet, we are stuck here on a planet that is overheating and getting too crowded.

Isn’t it wonderful that NASA finds such things as exoplanets?  It gives science fiction writers something to write about, and their novels give the rest of us the chance to bury our heads in a book so that we don’t have to look at the light of the oncoming train.

I wonder if on one or more of those seven planets there are telescopes looking at Earth with astronomers looking for an escape from their own gloomy futures.

Views: 68

Comment by koshersalaami on February 22, 2017 at 9:55pm

Distance is a bitch. Among other things, it really slows down communications.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 23, 2017 at 12:29am

"Juno used that effect and when it left the pull of Jupiter to go off toward deep space it was moving at about 165,000 mph."

"If my math is right (Math is not my strong suit. Please tell me that I’m wrong) it would take us 4,064 years and four months to go one light year catapulted past Jupiter, and to go forty light years would take us 162,572 years."

I've always been of the opinion that we cannot accomplish something if we can't first imagine doing so.

Conversely we can accomplish only that which we can imagine. 

If we can imagine only that which is within our grasp, how far are we away from being able to simply imagine traveling at speeds that are greater than the speed of light?

Please understand that I am trying to draw a distinction between imagination and fantasy here.

While we are able to imagine certain elements and aspects of Star Trek and Star Wars,  we fill the gaps that are left in our imaginations with fantasy...

We'll be able to go where no one has gone before when our imaginations catch up with our fantasies.

Who knows how long it will take for that...

My suspicion is that it will take somewhat longer than it took for the first genetic progenitor of humankind to crawl out of the primordial slime and evolve to develop the capacity to move something at 165,000 mph.

In the meantime all we can or should do is wonder; "What if?"

Finally, I am also of the belief that we won't be able to overcome the vast distances between interstellar worlds, unless and until we can overcome the distances we insist on maintaining between ourselves. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on February 23, 2017 at 2:00am

"...we won't be able to overcome the vast distances between interstellar worlds, unless and until we can overcome the distances we insist on maintaining between ourselves."

Ron, I agree.  Lynn and I got our first B&W television about 1969 or 70, found Star Trek early on and were hooked.  What we both liked, and what we ultimately liked about all of the Science Fiction/Fantasy we read was that the genre dealt more with sociology than with hard science.  With Lts. Uhura and Sulu the deck looked like humanity.  Most of the conflicts that the crew came into when they encountered alien species looked a lot like human conflicts, and the solutions were lessons for human interaction.  Sure we like the Tricorder and the ability to be teleported by reducing humans to their elements and reassembling elsewhere, but what we really liked were the characters.

I took a creative writing course one time and the teacher's comment was that I was more into fantasy than anyone she had taught. So, I'm not opposed to imagination or fantasy, I just think we need to fix the problems our species has created here before we go out and infect the stars.

kosh, can you imagine a conversation with 40 year pauses between send and receive?

Comment by Rodney Roe on February 23, 2017 at 6:05am

I don't remember on which blog the comment was made, but the observation was made that we know less about the bottom of the ocean than we know about space. 

I don't think that it is harder to explore; it's just that we know that we can't build colonies down there; and we've destroyed the coral reefs, fished out the seas and littered the bottom with garbage, anyway.  We're still unaccountably optimistic about space.

Comment by nerd cred on February 23, 2017 at 9:42am

I'm counting on SG-1 to work it all out.

Comment by JMac1949 Today on February 23, 2017 at 9:42am

R&L If there are other folk out there I hope they're doing better by their planets than we're doing here.

Comment by alsoknownas on February 23, 2017 at 10:15am

I already have trouble packing for an overnight trip. I always take too much.

I'm staying back.

Comment by Stephen Brassawe on February 23, 2017 at 10:45am

At least it is not a public opinion poll rendered in chart form. Thank you, Rodney.

It seems to me that if we had one of those black holes a bit closer by, we could use the slingshot effect you describe to get some truly impressive acceleration. As I understand it, a black hole has such immense gravitational pull that not even light can escape from it. Of course there might be some unforeseen consequences involved in having a black hole closer by.

In the interim, when was the last time you got a tuneup for your Toyota?

Comment by Rodney Roe on February 23, 2017 at 11:42am

I've thought a lot about how much you would have to take, AKA.  It would be either a lot or almost nothing.  If you were set on it being YOU who got there it would require suspended animation for many millenia.  We don't know how to do that yet.  Even the dormouse which slows it's metabolism to near death continues to age slowly and use energy.  In a lifespan of a few years that is negligible, but over millenia we would still wake up old.

If you could settle for the human race we could just send frozen sperm and eggs, (keeping them frozen would only require sticking them out the window), wake up robots at the other end and have them go through a fertilization and incubation process and then what?  It turns out humans don't thrive without a lot of cuddling, and someone needs to be there for their first steps.

If we sent a village that continued to eat, work and sleep in space the inhabitants would evolve toward something that does well under zero gravity and perhaps be unable to exist under something like earth gravity.

I can't find a way to make it a real possibility, or a feasible bit of fiction.  Only fantasy works.

Comment by Rodney Roe on February 24, 2017 at 4:56am

We've been trying to find a way to travel at light speed, or near light speed.  I don't know how I could have not thought of this.  

Al-Buraq (Arabicالبُراق‎) literally means. “lightening”  is a steed, described as a creature from the heavens which transported the prophets in Islam.

It is described as a white beast, smaller than a mule but larger than a donkey, that takes its next step while running on the horizon it sees.

We just need to find one of these: problem solved.

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