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Sunday, 20 March 2011

The search for a habitable planet

Thanks to the Kepler telescope amongst others, around 1200 new planets have been found. Most of these are gas giants, but around 58 detected so far could support life. One of the nearest new planets is around 20 light years away; still hopelessly beyond our current reach, but one day, someone (probably not Apple this time) will crack the faster-than-light speed problem.

By the time a truly habitable one is found, and a means of transport exists, we may have exhausted our planet's resources, or had a nuclear war, or just toxed up our world so much that people will be desperate to move, and corporations and governments will be equally desperate to stake a claim on new resources.

Artist's conception of Kepler-11 system (Nasa/T Pyle)
(BBC artist's image of one of the new found planetary systems)

When I started writing The Eden Paradox I thought finding planets would be a long way off. It may well be that we are tantalised for a couple more centuries by good-looking second homes before we can move in, because we can't get there in the space of a single life time. But the way technology advances, maybe it won't take that long. In the meantime, the gap between science fiction and reality starts to close. We live in exciting times.

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