Late last month, news broke of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. Orbiting the closest star to our Solar System, there’s a lot to love about Proxima b since it shares a few key traits with our own home planet.
But before we start making intergalactic vacation plans, let’s pump the space-brakes: half the planet is locked in darkness, it’s pelted by radiation from close proximity to its sun, and the rock is 25 trillion miles away. Our current best option for sending a probe there involves a laser-propelled space-sail, which would reduce travel time from tens of thousands of years to 20. Which is to say, while potentially astonishing, even the best case scenario seems like a long-shot for our lifetime.
To explain Proxima Centauri b, I invited my friend and colleague Loren Grush onto the show. This is, I think, the first episode in which we don’t talk about the Nic Cage film Knowing, so just keep that in mind.
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