Archive for the ‘Environment and Climate’ Category

Other Worldly Voices 4   5 comments

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Last in the “Other Worldly Voices” series! Saturn’s moon Titan introduces you to the dubious joys of liquid methane rain, alien thunderstorms, lightning, lakes of liquid ethane and methane, and regional methane seas. It’s also the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere and thick cloud cover, and with lower gravity than Earth (about 14%) and a pretty, hazy orange sky, it is also safe from cosmic radiation. So, not a bad environment if you’re into that sort of thing. You could actually survive here without a space suit /pressurised suit – just be sure you have an oxygen mask and some pretty warm clothes! -179deg’s C approx.

It also offers a slight improvement on the vocalisation front. Cue deep and raspy voice! But at least you have a voice here despite Titan’s freezing cold 50% denser than that of Earth atmosphere, and consisting of a heady 95% nitrogen and 5% methane. However, this dense and a touch on the chilly side Titan air, leads to less quivering on the part of your vocal cords and more appropriate behaviour from them given the circumstances.

Not satisfied with leisurely vocal cords Titan’s atmosphere also slows sound waves down too. On the upside, due to high levels of nitrogen in the atmospheric composition of Titan you’ll sound sexy and your deep and raspy vocals will travel for miles, unlike on Mars! Better still you’ll sound great because this handy atmosphere does not dull down the sexy vocals you utter!

 

References:

Noise, Winter 2019 issue of Popular Science

Space.com

Posted September 19, 2021 by europasicewolf in Astronomy, Environment and Climate

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Other Worldly Voices: 3–Your Venutian Voice!   13 comments

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Next up, our neighbouring planet Venus: that roasting hot hell-hole of a world not even vaguely conducive to human existence, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead, a crushingly high pressure (think 900m under the sea!) and thoroughly poisonous, largely carbon dioxide atmosphere (aprox. 70 x the density of Earth’s – all thick and soupy) On this basis your lungs would be crushed and you wouldn’t be able to shout, scream, yell or even sing no matter how much you might like to, and you certainly wouldn’t be having a chat since you wouldn’t be able to speak. All these delights coupled up nicely with a choking cover of sulphuric acid clouds. If you survived long enough, due to Venus’s retrograde orbit you could enjoy the curious pleasure of watching the sun rise – in the west and set in the east! As you probably wouldn’t survive you might still have just enough time to see the Venutian night sky. You wouldn’t see any stars but it would be suitably dark and black. If on the other hand your untimely demise happened to occur during the day you would be able to enjoy an orangy-red sky for a few seconds – the result of the sunlight being scattered around by those deadly carbon dioxide molecules. Returning to your vocalisations, should you be lucky enough to try having any, the high atmospheric density would lead to much slower vibrations of your long-suffering vocal cords so your vocalisations would sound very deep bass-toned. However, since the sound waves you produce, if you’re really, really lucky, move through Venus’s atmosphere much quicker than they would in Earth’s so you would also be speaking in a decidedly squawky, squeaky fashion! Not great for your final yell of protest at your pending demise on Venus!

Otherworldly Voices:2 – Your Martian Voice!   24 comments

 

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Standing outside on Mars with a view to taking a refreshing breath of fresh freezing cold Martian air whilst chatting about the stupendous view of neighbouring planet Jupiter might leave you wishing your body contained something else other than blood – seeing as it would repay you for the ill-thought up idea of going outside without a space suit by boiling you to death. You wouldn’t have too much time to converse about the dumb-founding beauty of the view of Jupiter as having been dumb enough to go outside in the first place and boil your blood you won’t last a matter of seconds anyway. This slightly pressing problem might possibly give you the completely understandable desire to have a good old scream before you die but even that isn’t going to go to plan. Nobody will hear you. Not least because most people wouldn’t be dumb enough to go outside on the Red Planet in the first place. But also, because the Martian atmosphere consists almost completely of carbon ­dioxide – 95% to be precise, and it does an awesome job of absorbing vibrations – such as those produced by your vocal cords. So, not only is screaming a waste of the precious time you have left, but if you thought you could accompany your ill-fated visit for fresh air on Mars with the ear-shattering sounds of your favourite music blasting out of that old ghetto blaster you brought with you from Earth – luck’s out. Krank up that volume all you like (but be quick – remember you have only seconds to live!) but it will still be little more than a distant tinkle of sound when you’re 10 metres away. Should you wish to sing along to it, the Martian air slows sound waves down to such an extent that you will produce nothing more than a hoarse, deep-toned croak.

Posted October 21, 2020 by europasicewolf in Astrobiology, Astronomy, Environment and Climate

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What if Earth Had a Growth Spurt!   Leave a comment

“Super-Earth’s” are faraway planets are about the size of Earth (between 2 and 10 times larger), belong to other solar systems and reside close to their own stars. These super earths are rocky worlds, smaller than gas giants like Neptune and Uranus, and sporting relatively thin atmospheres. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, over a 4 year period discovered numerous examples of these super Earth’s.

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So, what on earth would happen if Earth had a sudden growth spurt and became a super-Earth? how would our suddenly giant super-size Earth affect its inhabitants? Everything including humans would be little short, squat versions of their/our current selves! If planetary size increases but everything on the planet remains the same gravity increases proportionally. So, if Earth suddenly doubled in size humans would immediately double their weight due to the pull of gravity on us also doubling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There would be far too much gravitational pressure for our previously tall and upstanding bodies to deal with and to do so would involve a lot more energy to resist it.

A super-sized big fat Earth would be the proud possessor of a super-strong field of gravity. Nice! But unfortunately, this would mean we would have the not-so-nice job of having to deal with a decidedly unwanted increase in the number of head-on collisions with thoroughly undesirable asteroids. Lots of them!

“As a superplanet, Earth’s greater gravitational pull would effectively attract more and larger asteroids, so “Armageddon-type” collisions would become more of a concern than they are now” – Rory Barnes, theorist studying planet habitability at the University of Washington

If our super-Earth was around 10 times bigger than its normal, perfectly reasonable size this could set-off a whole bunch of spectacular changes inside our cosy, if not rather overly large planet. The Earth has a core made of iron and boasts a liquid mantle on its outside. Due to its largely unexplained and somewhat curious upgrade to a super earth both the core and the mantle would also swell proportionally, to be 10 times their normal size – eek! Not to be out done gravity would increase 10-fold leading to a pressure increase beneath Earth’s surface. This could lead to solidifying of the iron core.

Magnetic Fields

Normal size, squidgy, little Earth has a semi-liquid core complete with convection currents and it is from here Earth’s magnetic field is generated. Magnetic fields are quite handy things to have hanging around therefore, should Earth’s friendly little core decide solidifying was a pretty cool idea we would be faced with a highly unfavourable problem. The convection currents, along with the trusty magnetic field (planetary shield) could become much weaker than they are on normal sized Earth, or worst-case scenario, could disappear altogether, which is seriously bad news for every life form that calls Earth its home. Ooh err!

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Image Credit: Free stock photos – pexels.com (Image contains 2 photos)

 

 

 

Volcanic Activity

Another question with our shiny super-sized earth with its newly enlarged interior is the potential for a dangerous upsurge in volcanic activity. The expanded core contains higher levels of energy than little normal sized Earth but now it would have fewer outflows for all this extra energy it has gained, leading to more volcanic eruptions. (Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io comes to mind at this point!)

Our plate tectonics, would be different too. A larger and therefore much hotter mantle might increase convection current activity, also increasing plate movement. Alternatively, the high pressure might meld the crust together meaning there would be no plate tectonics at all.

Steam Planet

In fact, there are no guarantees that any form of life would be able to exist on our great big super-Earth. Most super-Earths detected by the Kepler space telescope were situated at nearly the same distance to their star as Mercury lies to our sun. (Think furnaces!) In this scenario our newly super-sized Earth would turn into a giant steamy planet!

References: https://www.livescience.com/what-if-super-earth.html

Global Martian Dust Storm   16 comments

The View from Insight! 🙂

It’s pretty packed here on the Mars Insight Probe and there’s nothing much to see outside right now… so we’ve been watching live streams of the dust storm taking over Mars to pass the time…Not very impressed with the view there right now either! 😉

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The Martian dust storm that has been engulfing the red planet for the last two weeks or so has now ballooned into full-blown global dust event magnitudes (officially known as a “planet-encircling” dust event.) as of 20th June. The atmospheric dust-haze now surrounding Mars and blocking out the sunlight as it covers the sky, is in the region of six to eight times greater than its seasonally normal density. In the absence of sunlight dusty red Mars has taken on a weirdly spooky-shadowless appearance.

Mars 2Poor little “Oppy” (NASA’s Opportunity rover) has been somewhat swamped, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Martian dust storm has diminished the sunlight it relies on for power, to such an extent (like completely obliterated it) that “Oppy” has been compelled to postpone all of its science activities until further notice. Without enough available power from its solar panels Oppy could not even “call home,” and NASA and Oppy lost contact altogether on 12th June 2018.

Mars 3Over on a different part of the planet at the infamous Gale Crater, Curiosity (NASA’s Curiosity rover), which has been hard at work studying the Martian soil in the region, has fared considerably better and it isn’t anticipated to be unduly bothered by the dust. Despite the antics of the Martian dust storm diminishing both sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater, Curiosity, who arrived on Mars five years after the last Martian dust storm of this nature, in 2007, has the edge over “Oppy” because it sports a nuclear-powered battery running 24/7 and doesn’t therefore have power issues to sweat over, unlike “Oppy”.

MarsThe offending dusty haze floating around the Martian atmosphere, resulting from the storm which is blocking out the sunlight, is known as “tau.” This tau level is at an all-time high rising tau level 8.0 at Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater. No higher tau has ever been recorded by the mission. The area close to Oppy’s location last measured a tau of almost level 11, and at such a high dust intensity it rendered impossible the job of Oppy – the longest working Mars rover, to provide any kind of precise measurements.  

Of course we experience dust storms of our own here on Earth. They occur  in the desert regions of, for example, the Middle East, North Africa and some southwest regions of the USA . However, thanks to our thicker atmosphere and its structural design along with the stronger gravity of Earth than on Mars, the dust is compelled to settle rather than floating around the atmosphere, as on Mars.  Our planet also benefits from the presence of land-growing vegetation.

Mars 4Usually dust storms occurring on Mars are confined locally.  This current storm is distinctive in that it covers an area the equivalent of the combination of Earth’s N America and Russia.  On a positive note it is a great opportunity to gain a more advanced knowledge of the way in which these Martian storms occur, progress and ultimately influence the red planet.

In the meantime Wolfie is passing the time chomping through stray pieces of liver cake floating past, posing for selfies and eyeing up the strange Manor-like building drifting randomly past the windows…. 🙂

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

www.space.com

www.astronomy.com

What if There was Life on Other Worlds?   19 comments

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

What is Planetary Protection?

Planetary protection refers to ‘interplanetary contamination’ – protecting solar system bodies (i.e., planets, moons, comets, and asteroids) from ‘biological contamination’ by Earth organisms, (Forward contamination – the transfer ofviable organisms’ from Earth to another interplanetary body), and protecting Earth from the transmission of alien organisms, to Earth’s biosphere e.g. as a result of ‘extra-terrestrial sample-return missions.’ (Back contamination)

 

The Outer Space Treaty

Why is Planetary Protection Important?

Planetary protection is a directive code in the blueprint of an interplanetary assignment, and is critical for several important reasons:  

  • mirrors the unknown nature of the space environment 
  • to safeguard our ability to study other worlds in detail, in their natural conditions 
  • to prevent contamination that would make it difficult/impossible to find potential life on another world  
  • to ensure that we take judicious safety measures to shield Earth’s biosphere in case it does.  

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

The legal basis for planetary protection is located in Article IX of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty ratified in 1967 by the US, USSR, and UK.

“Article IX: … States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extra-terrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

Requirements for Protecting Life on Other Bodies

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Planetary protection prerequisites for each mission and interplanetary body in focus are ascertained based on the scientific advice of the Space Studies Board, NASA or international policy guidelines.

Each mission is categorized according to:

  • Type of mission (e.g. flyby, orbiter, or lander)
  • Nature of its destination (e.g. a planet, moon, comet, or asteroid)
  • And the planetary bodies that may be discovered over the course of the mission (e.g. Mars and Europa).

Proposal to Increase Time-Scale for Planetary Protection

In the case of  Europa, the majority opinion was, that not only should Europa be kept it is not contamination-free during current times of exploration, but that it could well be scientifically important enough to warrant being kept in an un-touched and un-contaminated condition for future generations to benefit from studying too. 

“One consequence of this view is that Europa must be protected from contamination for an open-ended period, until it can be demonstrated that no ocean exists or that no organisms are present. Thus, we need to be concerned that over a time scale on the order of 10 million to 100 million years (an approximate age for the surface of Europa), any contaminating material is likely to be carried into the deep ice crust or into the underlying ocean.” 

(The minority opinion was that these protection measures are unnecessarily strong.)

But What About the Natives??!!

Europa and Alien Life

It is natural that we should want to explore worlds with the potential for life, and even to exploit them, but what if these worlds, such as Europa, do prove to have natives? There are different views on this subject. For example:

  • If the life is only microbial then there is no cause to worry about it. We should not let microbes interfere with potential colonisation.
  • It has its own ecosystem, and this should be left alone. However, if the long-term aim was to terraform Europa it would change the climate of the moon along with the rest of Europa.

Will we as egotistical humans decide, that despite knowing that this is a world that we have had no hand in creating, none-the-less that we should take measures to change it anyway? Or will we recognise our boundaries and appreciate that we have a unique standing in the cosmos, and therefore put aside our arrogance and leave untouched, a world, and possibly an eco-system, that we have had no hand in creating?

Europa’s Icewolf’s Personal Howl!

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My personal howl on this subject is that absolutely Europa needs to be protected from Earth contamination! We do not know the consequences of any potential contamination. And precautions should be taken so that accurate observations can be made regarding any life found on Europa. If we find life there, it will have its own ecosystem and we should leave it alone and allow it to be a nature reserve moon. We may even be able to find ways to improve its habitat to help its life to thrive in ways not yet possible for it on icy Europa. It may be possible to ring fence the inhabited areas to reduce human contact, but it seems to me that such action would serve only to damage Europa, and ultimately this moon needs to be left alone! 

As mentioned earlier, backward contamination by micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, certain algae and fungi) from other worlds are also a risk, when carried back to Earth on probes. which could have catastrophic upshots for Earth dwellers. Our immune systems will not have any resistance to extra-terrestrial micro-organisms. Not only would our bodies be totally unable to fight them it is pretty much guaranteed that we would have no time and no opportunity to research the creation of the necessary vaccine. Therefore, it will be essential to have high-level, cutting-edge systems for filtering and highly advanced procedures in place.

What do YOU think?!!

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Discovering beyond all doubt that alien life does exist would have big impacts on Earth.

  • Inevitably there would be changes to terrestrial science, technology, religion, politics and ecosystems as a result of contact with extra-terrestrial life, whether it be microbial or a technologically advanced civilisation.

Consequences for Society and Cultural Back-Lashes

Nobody will avoid the impact from the culture shock that would occur if we were to discover extra-terrestrial life, whatever form it might take. We would be forced to face the sudden reality that we were not a unique exception in the universe, which could cause a very serious back-lash in society as we know it. A culture shock of this nature could last for decades, possibly centuries. It would not only be ourselves affected in the deepest and most profound of ways but also our children and our children’s children. As we reach out to new, unexplored worlds with no real knowledge of what we might find there, exactly how the potential revelation of extra-terrestrial life and the impact on future generations is an issue that requires our consideration…

…NOW!!  

Sources: 

https://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/overview 

https://www.state.gov/t/isn/5181.htm 

http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf   (SpaceTreaty PDF) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_protection 

www.space.com  (What Finding Alien Life Could Mean for Earth) 

www.wikipedia.com  (Potential Cultural Impact) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join IceWolf’s Holiday in the Sun!   4 comments

😃Send Your Name to the Sun 😃🛰🚀

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So! That’s Icewolf’s summer holiday sorted! And a sun tan the like of which has never been seen before!! 

Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center:  July 31 – Aug 19, 2018

Join the Mission – Send Your Name to the Sun

Follow the Mission at Facebook: NASASunScience

Follow the Mission at Twitter: NASASun

Additional Information about the Parker Solar Probe Mission

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Europa’s Icewolf is Going to Mars!   35 comments

Europa’s Icewolf is Going to Mars!!

Mars-InSight Boarding Pass 🙂

My name is onboard the “passenger list” for the next mission to Mars-InSight!

InSight will launch in May, 2018. It will study the interior of Mars and listen for Marsquakes. 

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Feel free to join me! I’ve recently completed an Open University course – How to Survive on Mars, so everyone will be fine! All my shiny new followers welcome too 🙂 It will be the perfect time to get to know each other…it takes a while to get to Mars! Look carefully, and you may even see the Black Wolves of Mars 😉

Happy Easter from Europa :)   15 comments

 

 

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New evidence from NASA indicates that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. They, like Earth, are both ocean worlds and in both therein are some of the key ingredients for life.

A wealth of hydrogen molecules in water plumes soaring from the ruptures in Enceladus’s icy surface, have been detected by the Cassini spacecraft. The vital chemical methane, could also be establishing itself in the ocean beneath the ice.

The elusive presence of a water plume erupting on the warmest part of Europa’s icy surface, which has a salty liquid ocean beneath it was shown by the Hubble Space Telescope. The ocean itself contains double the amount of water found in the oceans of Earth.

 

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Europa could be the pick of the bunch for life-bearing within our own solar system outside of our homeworld. will launch In the 2020’s the Europa Clipper will be launched, and should arrive at Europa a few years later. It will be the first to explore an alien ocean and will also fly through the plume to collect data.

It will definitely be a first to discover Intergalactic Liver Cake – staple diet of Icewolves, and indeed most domestic canines Earth! The structure of the Liver Cake may differ slightly from much-loved Earthly treat, but the Europan version is just as mouthwatering and tasty to both lupine and canine alike 🙂 And what better time than Easter, the time of ressurection and new life, to discover tantsalising new life hopes on worlds not so very far from home?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Icewolf of course, did not go hunting any down without telling Clowie, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog…she would never dream of such indiscretion 😉 …. Never!

Image: Europa’s Icewolf 2017_ Europa’s Icewolf: Jupiter, seen from Europa.

 

Proxima B – Life in the Habitable Zone?   27 comments

Historic Potentially Earth-Like World Proxima B

The historic discovery of potentially Earth- like world Proxima-b was announced 24 August 2016. Orbiting Proxima Centauri, a Red Dwarf star in the habitable zone and the nearest star to our own Sun Proxima-b marks not only the closest alien planet ever found but also with the potential to be habitable.

Proxima b

This artist’s impression shows what the sky might look like on Proxima Centauri b if the planet has a surface. The exoplanet orbits the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, currently the closest star to the solar system at 4.2 light-years. The other two members of the Alpha Centauri triple, Alpha Centauri A and B, would appear in the sky, too.
ESO / M. Kornmesser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this proves to be the case, then there is no shortage of time for some form of life to originate based on the fact that red dwarf stars such as Proxima Centauri burn for trillions of years.

From the point of view of the average Earth-based visitor stopping by for a summer vacation, Proxima-b runs the risk of being a rather boring holiday resort. The sun-tan would be awesome, not so much so the destruction of the biological cells exposed to the intensely dodgy UV radiation that is present. Combined with the prospect of heavy duty sun-screen to protect from the sun’s constant bombardment of energy flares bouncing around the planetary surface probably wouldn’t be classed as entirely awesome either. On top of which the Proxima Centauri flares would also banish any hope of using mobile phones, tablets, X-boxes or any other such devices thanks to its electronics-disabling qualities. so no ET calling home and definitely no Skype!

Proxima b _Bustle DarkBAlthough it is a tidally locked planet– roasting hot on its star- facing side, freezing cold on the other, there is also enough wind around in the atmosphere to circulate the heat, balancing out the extreme temperatures that would otherwise exist. None-the-less a visit to the the planetary darkside, where it is bathed in perpetual night could prove to be the safest, and possibly the only option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately astronomers are choosing to be particularly pessimistic about this little world following the initial euphoria and have currently decided it is probably a dead, airless rock that will never harbour life due to it’s close proximity sun (20x nearer than Earth to the Sun) creating a risk of it boiling off the water and thereby stripping away the planet’s atmosphere. Researchers its oxygen will be gone in about 10 million years. Life on Earth took billions of years to develop.

Young M Dwarf StarsYoung M dwarf stars can unleash dangerous flares, (“planet-frying radiation”) that strip off atmosphere-forming oxygen spelling doom for closely orbiting planets. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / S. Wiessinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

proxima bImage: NASA Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab

However hope lives eternal. Theoretically it is possible life could advance to endure the high levels of radiation, by altering the worst of Proxima Centauri’s emissions into inoffensive visible light. We know this is plausible, because due to a process known as biofluorescence this —has already happened on many occasions on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately It is expected that the 2018 launch of The James Webb Space Telescope, will provide answers to the critical question of whether there is any chance at all that Proxima b is capable of supporting life.

Proxima b – Habitable ‘Ocean Planet’??

Another possibility is the Proxima b could be an ocean world whose entire surface consists of a liquid ocean. This may bear a similarity to the Jupiter and Saturn moons that are icy worlds with subsurface oceans.

On the other hand the more optimistic researchers suggest that Proxima b may in fact be habitable after all. So don’t put the suitcases back in the attic just yet intrepid cosmic holiday makers! If Proxima b had in reality formed further out from it’s sun than its current position this would also offer a high possibility of there being water. This idea is based on the outer realms of planetary systems being more likely to form ice. If it then moved inwards for a up closer and more personal relationship with its sun then this ice could melt and form seas. Maybe 😉

Sea

Proxima b – A Desert World??

be8a53dc8479400431b0270a3d2ef730But it still seems most likely, according to Victoria Meadows (University of Washington), that this exoplanet is a desert world since the radiation bombarding it would almost certainly have evaporated the majority of the water. This process could have collected the oxygen and hydrogen in the water and created an atmosphere rich in oxygen. Then again it could a 2nd Venus with an atmosphere rich in Carbon Dioxide, or even another Uranus or Neptune.

The Other Closest Habitable-Zone Worlds

If all else fails cosmic holiday makers may wish to try some of the nearbyProxima Wolf 3, potentially habitable exoplanet worlds, for size….: Kapteyn b (13 light-years away) and Wolf 1061 c (14 light-years). Both planets are just over half again as wide as Earth, with minimum masses of 4 to 5 Earths, and both are in their stars’ habitable zones. Wolf 1061 c does not look at all hopeful in terms of habitability. But Kapteyn b looks good. It’s about 3½ times farther from its sun than Proxima b is from its sun so potentially it could be far enough out of reach of its sun’s rather violent output to provide a half decent holiday resort!

 

References:

www.skyandtelescope.com

www.gizmodo.com

www.space.com

www.scinews.com

www.csmonitor.com