For my astronomy wonder project, I looked into what planets outside of Earth could potentially be habitable by humans. The planets I investigated were Mars, and TRAPPIST-1e. The latter is named for the telescope that discovered it, thus the odd name.
Firstly, Mars. It orbits our own sun and is just 54.6 million kilometres away. That sounds far, but it would only take us about a year to get there if we went when the Earth is at its closest to Mars (as opposed to a few decades). Large ice layers were recently discovered just a few feet under the surface of the planet, which would provide drinking water to anyone living there (see image below). The gravity is 0.376 of Earth’s, which would make the weight of an average 150-pound male human only 57 pounds. The days there are close to the same length as ours, but the years are far longer – it takes Mars 687 days to go around the sun! The temperature is anywhere from 20º to -50º Celsius, primarily on the lower end of that. Humans cannot survive temperatures that far below 0º for extended periods of time, which creates a problem with trying to live there. The other problem with colonizing Mars is the atmosphere. On Earth, the atmosphere is mostly Nitrogen and Oxygen. On Mars, it is made up of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen, Argon, and a variety of trace gasses. If one were to compare those lists, one would notice that only one of the primary gasses is shared between them. This would mean that if humans were to colonize Mars, we would need something to maintain a viable atmosphere and temperature.
But let’s look outside the solar system. The TRAPPIST-1 star is 39 light-years away from Earth, which would make it nearly impossible to get there in a timely manner. The characteristic that gives this planet potential as a new home is water availability. It is very likely that there is liquid water on the surface. In addition, its gravity is very close to that of Earth – 0.93 of what we are used to. This would make the example 150-pound man mentioned earlier weigh about 140 pounds. A year on TRAPPIST-1e would last only 6 days. As to the length of the days – we don’t know. It is likely that the planet does not rotate like Earth does, meaning that one side is always facing the sun, and the other side is always dark. If we were to settle there, it would have to be on the border of light and dark, where a balance of temperatures would exist. As with Mars, the atmosphere would probably be an issue. But, we don’t know what the air there is made of. For all we know, it’s perfectly viable. But it is most likely not. The chances of another planet having an atmosphere the same as Earth’s are astronomical.
So, while TRAPPIST-1e might be a lovely place to live if we could get there, Mars seems to be our best option fo colonization. Despite this, there are some serious obstacles to living there, too. A human exposed to Mars’ atmosphere would suffocate in minutes without a space suit. But, with a little more technology, we may soon be able to live on Mars.
1) What questions did you need to research in order to research your topic?
What makes Earth habitable? What is Mars’/TRAPPIST-1e’s atmosphere; gravity; day/year length; distance from Earth
2) What new or familiar digital tools did you try to use as you worked through this project?
Gale topic finder; Google
3) What was the process you used to investigate the topic?
I determined what makes Earth habitable, and looked for other planets with those qualities
4) How did you verify and cite the information you found?
I made sure that I could find the same information in at least two places (other than Wikipeia)
5) How did the process of completing this challenge go? What could you have done better?
I could have improved the quality/number of images in my final post.