There’s excellent news today for people who worry about the end of the world. Another world has been found!
Orbiting around the star Gliese 581 is a planet about 3 or 4 times the size of Earth, in the middle of that star’s habitable zone. Gliese is a red dwarf star about 20 light years away. So, if we could invent a big colonizing space ship that could travel at a third of the speed of light, it could reach Gliese 581 within one human lifespan.
What then? I suppose that depends on whether there are already Gliesians inhabiting the planet. Perhaps the first generation of of humans that arrive at Gliese 581 could kidnap natives and perform experiments on them…
One tricky thing about inhabiting this newly-discovered planet is that it’s locked in to a particular combination of rotation and revolution that keeps one side of the planet always facing its star, and another side of the planet permanently facing away from the star. So, rather than having seasons, the planet probably has one side that’s baked to the extreme and another side that’s always icy cold and dark. The place for humans to inhabit would probably be along the zone of permanent dawn, where the rays of Glieselight are low enough to avoid causing excessive heat. Plants, if they’re edible, could grow to remarkable size in such conditions.
Science fiction writers, get to work.
This image of the newly discovered planet orbiting Gliese 581 was created by Lynette Cook.