I know that this has almost nothing whatsoever to do with libraries, books, or anything else I generally deal with, but boy, it’s the coolest news story I’ve seen all week:
It’s orbiting a red dwarf star (Gliese 581) just about 20 light-years from us, it’s about half again the size of Earth, and there’s a great chance it has liquid oceans.
When I was 12, there were nine planets. Nine (including Pluto). One
big star (the sun) that we paid attention to, and a whole scads of more
distant points of light that we knew barely anything about other than
magnitude, size and which constallation to look towards to see them. That was pretty much it. We know a
lot more now, including the locations of over 220 planets outside our
solar system. And some of them defy all previously imagined laws of
planetary formation. Gas giants should not be able to form closer to a
G class star than Mercury is to the sun. But at least one seems to have done just
that. Go figure.
And 22 years later I see that we’ve got a curiously Earth-like
(potentially Earth-like) rock circling a very small, dim star right in
the neighborhood. Granted, this thing is in our neighborhood in
galactic terms only. A Solar sail might get you there by the year
3000. A big enough ship–maybe a hollowed out asteroid powered by a
nuclear engine–might be able to spend a year accelerating to a speed
approaching light-speed (186,232 mi/sec the last time I checked), coast
most of the way then spend another year decelerating to make orbit on
final approach. Total trip time might be 25 years. The
Constitution-class U.S.S. Enterprise could get you there in about a month at
Warp 6, but that’s even less likely than the first two possibilities.
A wormhole-powered gateway of some type could get you there in a few minutes.
Anyway, read the article and take a minute or so to wonder what cosmic knowledge your kids will be reading about in another 22 years.