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Possible Replacement Earth Discovered Only 42 Light Years Away

Possible Replacement Earth Discovered Only 42 Light Years Away

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire recently discovered a new planet that may have an Earth-like climate. It’s far closer than other potential replacement Earth’s, which has astronomers wondering what a second inhabitable planet would mean for the future of humankind.

I’m what the Urban Dictionary calls an “apocaloptimist“: someone who knows we’ve really dug ourselves into a hole as a nation/society/species, but still thinks it will turn out OK in the end. We talk about saving the world, but what if we don’t? What if, instead of accepting the consequences of our actions and taking action to correct them, we continue to exploit the planet until there’s nothing left?

Although we’re not so good at admitting our mistakes, humans are pretty talented when it comes to technology and consuming things. While potential replacement Earths have been spotted before, they’ve been hundreds of light years away. The new “Earth” exists in the habitable zone of a perfectly quiet old dwarf star and is part of a six-planet system only 42 light years away. That’s only 246,902,265,673,711 miles!

The planet that’s of interest to scientists occupies the outermost orbit from the star, similar to the our own Earth keeps from the Sun. This orbit is why the presence of liquid water and stable atmospheres to support life are possible and, more importantly, the planet is likely to be rotating on its own axis as it orbits around the star creating a daytime and night-time effect on the planet which would be better at creating an Earth-like environment.

With a mass of at least seven times that of Earth, there’s no question that there would be enough room for the human race on its surface. But even if we can, should we?

For some reason, abandoning this Earth to die and then moving on to another seems like the ultimate act of consumption. It’s the “throw it away” mentality that poisoned the planet in the first place. It seems unfair that we might survive without paying the consequences for our wanton greed. What if, in a few short millennia, inhabitants of the New Earth find themselves in the same situation?

Despite the excitement over this new super planet, it’s important to keep our expectations on terra firma. Instead of looking for an escape plan, let’s plan to take care of the planet we’ve got. Rather than imagining a do-over, let’s roll up our sleeves and become good stewards, rather than exploiters, of this marvelous Blue Marble. On the off chance we don’t invent a space ship that can transport 7 billion people 42 light years away, let’s act as though this is the only Mother Earth we’ll ever have. Only then can we be trusted with another.

Related Reading:

Connecting The Dots: A Planet-Saving Mentality

The Planet Hasn’t Noticed Your Green Lifestyle

Ian Somerhalder Calls On Netizens To Save The Planet

Read more: , , , , ,

Image Credit: J. Pinfield, for the RoPACS network at the University of Hertfordshire

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159 comments

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6:25AM PST on Feb 20, 2013

If the mass is 7 times that of Earth, it will have a radius of the cube root of 7 times that of Earth, if it has the same density as Earth. The distance from the center of its mass will be the cube root of 7, the pull of gravity compared to Earth at the surface will be its mass of 7 Earths divided by the square of the cube root of 7, or 7exp(1-2/3) or the cube root of 7, almost 2. On the surface of that planet everything will weigh almost twice what it weighs on Earth. perhaps that would be a place suitable only for bodybuilders to live if they don't try to walk around all day.

7:03PM PST on Feb 19, 2013

noted

7:58AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

I think it's cool to have some proof of what we should have already expected and that is that there are more places out there where life could be sustained

8:31AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

It's probably full of people who have wrecked it and have just spotted Earth.

7:19AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Hmmm...an apocaloptimist...unfortunately I don't think it will be ok in the end! That won't stop me trying, sometimes flailing, sometimes sailing but ever continuing the good fight. :-)

9:25PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Could we please send the secessionists there on the spaceship they would be at each other's throats, threatening to secede from the ship... doubt we would have to worry about them overpopulating the new planet....

8:49AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

We would over populate our new planet within 10 years even if we could ever reach the 42 light year away planet. Let's face it we aren't going anywhere! We better stop dreaming and attack our population problems before we have a environmental meltdown!

10:15AM PST on Nov 18, 2012

Wish we could blast off all the people on this earth who hurt animals or the environment to this "new" earth - there'd be nothing there for them to kill or destroy!

12:20AM PST on Nov 18, 2012

"don't worry, humans are too primitive and savage and suicidal to develop anything like space travel"........................Aaaah, all coming from the fingers of an ancient philosopher and scientist, I see. Mark, news flash............we HAVE the technology for space travel, and just landed a "rover" on Mars, we've walked on the moon and what does being "suicidal" have to do with anything? 42 light years away is not inconceivable at all when one realizes that landing on the moon for the first time was somewhat recent. Not saying we SHOULD try to go there, but it's not out of the question that we COULD and sooner than most think.

7:57PM PST on Nov 17, 2012

?? If this alternate Earth is seven times the mass of our Earth, its gravity would be so strong that we would have to be supermen to live there!

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