Dying Stars And Planets To Live On
Astronomers have long thought that the best place for life as we know it is a planet in the "habitable zone" - the range of orbits that leads to planets with liquid water - surrounding a main sequence star like our sun. Science fiction writers know better - and now astronomers are rethinking past work.
(Our sun as a red giant)
American astrophysicist William Danchi, and French colleagues Bruno Lopez and Jean Scheider, argue that the search for planets should not be limited to main sequence stars like our sun. The main sequence is only the first stable period of our sun's life; when it begins to burn its hydrogen around a growing helium core it offers another period of several billion years of stability. Finally, stars that have the right mass eventually become red giants; the temperature of the star's core increases as it shrinks, but the outer layers expand and cool. The "habitable zone" of a red giant (like the sun will be) extends from about 630 million miles to 2 billion miles.
Danchi, Lopez and Schneider argue that about 150 sub-giant and red giant stars are situated within 100 light years of Earth (compared to about 1,000 main sequence stars). NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder space mission will focus only on main sequence stars. These stars will have habitable planets that are further from their suns, and will therefore be easier to find in the glare of the parent stars.
Science fiction authors have long used red giant stars as a convenient location for alien civilizations; often, it is used to denote the planet of a very ancient and wise civilization. In his 1953 novel Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke describes the planet of the Overlords who came to help Earth through a difficult developmental stage:
This was the supreme moment of his life: now he was to be the first human being ever to look upon a world lit by another sun...
It was cold, though not uncomfortably so. The light from the great red sun low down on the horizon was quite ample for human eyes, but Jan wondered how long it would be before he yearned for greens and blues. Then he saw that enormous, wafer-thin crescent reaching up the sky like a great bow placed beside the sun. He stared at it for a long time before he realized that his journey was not yet altogether ended. That was the world of the Overlords. This must be its satellite, merely the base from which their vessels operated.
Read more at Dying stars could make frozen planets habitable. You might also like Planets May Wander Alone and Massive Planetoids From Beyond The Solar System. If you are concerned that the
Earth will no longer lie in the "habitable zone" when our sun becomes a red giant,
read what science fiction authors have had to say about moving
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/29/2005)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.
Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'
SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.
RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!
MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'
Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...
MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!
UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.
Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!
Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.
Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'
Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing
Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.
Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.
Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.
Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'
Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories