At all times there were end-of-the-world gurus. With more or less degree of charlatanism. But never as now – a situation where it is well known that there will be a The end for planet Earth, they began to work to find a plan B that would save humanity.
"Our civilization has all the eggs in a basket, the Earth. And everything we enjoy can disappear as a result of a major catastrophe: the impact of an asteroid, some climatic hecatomb or the evolution of the Sun and the boiling of our oceans. Therefore, moving to space is the most advisable to extend the existence of humanity, "he warns. Live the physicist Avi Loeb of Harvard University. Loeb is the same scientist who surprised the world a few months ago when he said that an asteroid detected in 2017 could, in fact, be the remains of an alien-made ship. He was also a friend of the popular astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who before his death suggested the same thing: to find, as soon as possible, a new space home.
Next Centauri B. Artistic recreation of one of his landscapes. Does it look like Earth? / Image: ESA
The next Centauri B, a planet that orbits the star closest to the Sun, for now, is the strongest candidate. First, and though it may seem strange, proximity. They are only 4.25 light years from Earth. To get an idea: the Moon is 1.3 seconds of light and Mars, 4.35 minutes of light (when its orbit approaches). In astronomy, the distances are so great that it would be very complicated to speak for miles. This is why other measurement types are used, such as parsec, astronomical units O light-years: the distance light travels in a year. That Proxima Centauri B is less than 5 light-years away is a good point. Although it is far.
Next, Centauri B has a hemisphere always illuminated, subject to high temperatures, while the dark hemisphere is extremely cold.
"By optimizing a small probe (a few pounds) and with the propulsion we have today, I do not think we could get there in less than 10,000 years. there are projects in preliminary stages to build solar sails powered by lasers from Earth, who would be able to launch mini-instruments at high speed: they would arrive in less than 100 years, "says astronomer Guillem Anglada Escudé of Queen Mary University in London, one of the discoverers of Next Centauri B.
"With the rockets we have today, it would take 50,000 years, but it would be worth it." This planet is located 20 times closer to its star than the distance separating Earth from the Sun. But the proximal of Proxima Centauri B, Proxima Centauri, has a special characteristic: is a red dwarf star, with only 12% of the mass of the Sun and therefore much weaker. This is why the temperature in Proxima Centauri B is similar to that of Earth, although this does not guarantee the existence of life as we know it here. To have liquid water and the right chemical conditions, the atmosphere is needed. At the moment we're not sure he has. Its atmosphere could have been swept away by the wind of its own star. "
Discovery Next Centauri B was observed in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Its signals were captured by the La Silla Observatory in Chile. / Photo: ESA
Anglada Escudé adds that this new world has a side that is always looking at its star, as it happens with the Moon, which always shows the same face to the Earth. The other is "hidden." Due to this phenomenon, it has a hemisphere that is always illuminated and would be subjected to high temperatures while the dark hemisphere would be extremely cold. "Because of this synchronized rotation, moreover, we know that there are no days or nights there. One side of the planet is always day and the other in perpetual darkness." What we also know is that a year lasts 11.2 days, which is the time it takes to orbit your star.
Cold, but not so much. Four degrees Celsius average according to the calculations. This is good news because this temperature favors the conditions for the existence of liquid water, a key factor for terrestrial life. Something that can confirm this Live NASA scientist Anthony Del Genio, who has done a rigorous study on the key features of this planet. "We know that Próxima Centauri B It's bigger than Earth, but not much larger, with a mass 1.3 times greater. But the most surprising thing is that it can contain liquid water on its surface and then can be habitable. "
It does not dawn or dusk, but it is always lived as in an eternal noon on its day side, the one that looks at its star.
Del Genio's experiments with climate models to learn more details revealed another interesting finding: "Its star is much smaller and colder than our Sun and its stellar light is mostly red and at wavelengths even larger than the eyes. and it is not dawn or dusk, but it is always lived as in an eternal noon on its day side, the one that looks at its star, and on both sides there are cloudy skies most of the time. "
If traveling to Proxima Centauri B was possible, where would it be convenient to settle for humanity? On the Moon, Mars or in this new world? "Moon and Mars also do not have a substantial atmosphere, but they are much closer, something that shortens the journey and makes building colonies for humans more practical.It may be the first step. B, "says Avi Loeb.
"If we could ignore the distance, I think we could live Protaxima Centauri B in the area known as limbo, where the sun is always on the horizon. In that region we could be protected from radiation, which is more intense than received on Earth, and we would have acceptable temperatures and energy. According to some study models, it may be that Proxima Centauri B is an "oceanic world," without continents. If this were confirmed, Mars would agree. But everything is speculative, "says Anglada Escudé.
Without knowing exactly what this alternative planet is like (more observations and research are missing), the only certainty is that humanity needs a B plan. "The return to the Moon by China and soon from Europe, and plans to arrive with a manned mission to Mars they are like the first steps of a baby for the colonization of new worlds. It's a path we can not stop if we want to resist, "sums up Avi Loeb.