What If We Settled on an Exoplanet?

Are you looking for a change of scenery? Are you tired of boring old Earth? How would you like a new home away from home? Really far away from home. Like outside our Solar System far.

What exoplanet would suit us best? Are there any pros? And more importantly, what are the cons?

An exoplanet is a planet outside our Solar System. As of March 2020, we’ve discovered over 4000 different ones.  So, it sounds like we have some options for our interplanetary house hunt, but we do have a “MUST” on our list that could make or break the deal.

Whichever exoplanet we settle on must be located in something called a “habitable zone.”  Being in a habitable zone means the planet orbits around a star, kind of like our Sun.  The big perk here is that water on this planet will stay liquid.

Fun fact, we humans need water to survive, so this is a biggie.  So we got in touch with our space realtor, and they’ve picked out a cozy little exoplanet for us to settle on.

Teegarden’s Star b. Teegarden? Oh, that sounds like a nice neighborhood! To sweeten the deal, this exoplanet is only 12.5 light-years from Earth, which means it’s one of the closest exoplanets we’ve found so far.

It has an Earth Similarity Index of 0.95, which is the highest of all exoplanets to date. Teegarden’s Star b is a major contender for a settlement. But before we rent the moving ships, let’s see what we’re dealing with.

Teegarden’s Star b orbits an M-type star, like our Sun, only a lot smaller and cooler. It is located 40 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun. The infrared radiation from the M-type star would be absorbed by ice instead of being reflected.  That means water vapor and carbon dioxide can also absorb and trap infrared radiation.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, you won’t freeze to death, so that’s a win in our book.

It takes the exoplanet just under five days to complete one orbit of its star. That’s something we’ll have to get used to as it takes Earth 365 days to orbit the Sun. Time flies, right? OK, it sounds good, but what’s the catch? I feel like our space realtor didn’t tell us something. Is it haunted?

Well, it’s worse. Teegarden’s Star b is tidally locked. Tidally locked means it takes the same amount of time for a planet to spin once about its axis as it does to orbit once about its star.

That means that one side will always face the warming glow of the star while the other faces … the bleak, perpetual darkness of space.  Sorry um, where was I?

One side of the planet will be scorching hot and the other in a deep freeze. That means, depending on which part we settle on, we’ll be trapped in a never-ending day or night.  Way to bury the lede, space realtor.

So, after hearing all that, maybe we took our planet for granted. Sure, Earth has its problems. But we’re in a nice habitable zone, and our planet is full of rich ecosystems. Maybe we should treat Earth like a fixer-upper and take care of it, instead of looking for planet B.

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