Friday, March 13, 2009

The Galaxy and Interstellar Domination

The other day, I came across a blog about astronomy (you can read it here) and it got me very excited about space again, and I started doing some reading up on moons and planets and what not else. I also downloaded a program that allows you to set your destination, and then shows a map of the sky and what each star / planet is. It is very cool, and can be found here: Stellarium.

Anyway, whilst reading, I found out some interesting things about Titan – the main ones that excited me were that there is a liquid water ocean underneath its crust, and that radiation within the core provides a source of energy for the planet. Much like the “black smokers” in our own oceans, no sunlight is required for life to exist here. I am sure many have seen or at least heard of the worms and crustaceans that live near these underwater vents. It is highly likely that in Titan’s subterranean ocean, there are vents exactly like these on earth, and thus highly likely that there is life of some kind underneath Titan’s icy crust (I say icy because the crust is just that – ice).

There are of course some limiting factors – we haven’t actually seen the ocean, so we don’t know 100% for sure that it’s there and is water (though radar and other techniques that baffle me have “proven” that it’s there), there is a whole lot of radiation from Saturn, and it’s incredibly cold there (like -220®C cold). However, the presence of hydrocarbons and other such life sustaining building blocks have been detected there, and so Titan is one of the best candidates for alien life in our solar system – so much so that the building of colonies there has been theorized.
Another interesting factor is that in approximately 6 billion years, our sun will be a red giant (humans would be long dead, I think) and the surface temperatures on Titan would be much higher – possibly, close to what the temperatures are on Earth today. Therefore, the ingredients for life are all there – the satellite is just at a very early stage.

What got me thinking, however, was the talk of colonization – at some point in the future; we might build some kind of base there – as a pit stop for further exploration or possibly as a centre for terraforming or research. As a research station, scientists would live on Titan in igloos, and drill into the crust, sending submarines into the ocean to study it. I shall give you a few seconds to think about that.

Did you have my reaction? It was something along the lines of “WOW!” and completely brought out the little kid in me. I was amazed and excited and the thoughts of adventure and leaving planet Earth for a new life near Saturn filled my head. It made me realize that while we are so far away, we are also so tantalizingly close to actually leaving our planet with the sole purpose of inhabiting others.

So, that got me wondering – given the choice to leave our planet and live on another, how many people would? Surely the numbers would be greater than the establishment could support? I certainly would put my name down – the adventure of being a Columbus for our planet is too inviting for me to turn down. Others wouldn’t though – I guess it’s personal choice. Would you?

No comments: