The big news in astronomy last week was the discovery of a ‘New Earth’ or as scientist call it Gliese 581 C, proving again why these gentlemen went into astronomy instead of creative writing.
Indeed, the new planet or exo-planet if you will, was found in, wait for it, the Gliese 581 C system and it is the closest rock which resides in what astronomers call ‘the habitable zone’ from its sun. It basically means its surface will not boil you alive or fry you to a crispy bacon-red or leave you frozen solid after only a few seconds exposure. Or suffocate, radiate, evaporate, burn your lungs from the inside out or melt you into a big pile of flesh. Umm, we do have it really good here on this little planet of ours, don’t we? And yet, we are still destroying, burning and polluting the hell out of it. Human stupidity amazes however our greed amazes me even more. But that is another story…
Anyway, back to New Earth…In fact, if you were to lie there you might be left with a nice even tan assuming of course you had somehow managed to get there and there is oxygen for you to breathe. Since quite frankly almost everything we know about this planet comes mostly from speculation.
Sure, we can apply some models and some seriously nerdy math and get pretty close as to guessing its weight, mass, volume, orbit, gravity, age and possibly what it had for dinner. However the one thing we can’t know for sure is the question which is on everyone’s mind, whether life there exists.
I would like to know if there is life on this little planet orbiting a red dwarf for the simple reason that it will give the human race something to think about. A point –a planet sized point— worth of perspective and maybe some insight into our beliefs. I would love to see how organized religions try to handle this one. No intelligent design here boys and girls! Unless God, that two-timing, work-a-holic deity lied to us and was moonlighting and creating other planets during that first week. The earth is only six thousand years old, you know.
Since every time science rebuffs some wacky idea written in a secular book not meant to be taken literally –yet taken literally by millions– organized religion’s heart suddenly jumps and skips a beat. Then they gasp for air and just like that, the beliefs that had been held as correct, worshiped and unchangeable for centuries gets suddenly changed in order to avoid looking like a rustic belief system from a bygone era. Yup, just like that!
So, my main question is, if one day, we discover intelligent life in Gliese 581C… as it will take a while before we know for certain because although the planet is only 20.5 light-years away, this translates into a 730,000 year trip in our currently fastest craft, best bet for communication is radio, but even that would take 20 years… I wonder, what will their Jesus look like?
Footnote – ‘Gliese’ is the name of a catalogue of all the stars which have been found since 1991 and are within 25 parsecs of our sun. Think of it as a very large, Ikea catalogue, with stars instead of disposable furniture.