Forget Spaceships, Free-Floating Planets Could Be Our Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
A new study suggests that it may be possible to use free-floating planets to travel to distant galaxies. Irina Romanovskaya, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Houston Community College, believes that extraterrestrial civilizations may already use these rogue planets as a means of travel to explore and colonize other planetary systems.
The thought of traveling at light speed in order to reach far off galaxies has been imagined by Hollywood for decades. Truth be told, however, we are nowhere close to making this a reality. As of right now, it still takes five years for an orbiter to reach Jupiter. The reality we face, for the time being, is that it would take generations for humans to possibly reach the closest neighboring solar system, Alpha Centauri.
With that thought in mind, Romanovskaya has authored a new research paper that takes a look at another possible means of space travel. She states, "I propose that extraterrestrial civilizations may use free-floating planets as interstellar transportation to reach, explore, and colonize planetary systems."
Along with proposing the usage of rogue planets as a means of traversing space, Romanovskaya suggests that if other civilizations have already utilized this type of travel, it would leave possible technosignatures and artifacts that we should be searching for.
When someone imagines a rogue planet, they may think of a cold, dark, cold, and inhospitable place. While this is very likely true, some of these planets may have warm subsurface oceans and a few other advantages.
"Free-floating planets can provide constant surface gravity, large amounts of space and resources," Romanovskaya commented. "Free-floating planets with surface and subsurface oceans can provide water as a consumable resource and for protection from space radiation."
Romanovskaya also suggests that an advanced civilization could possibly engineer the planet for even greater advantages, such as steering the planet and developing it for energy sources. She adds that if humans are on the verge of using controlled fusion, then advanced civilizations could already be using it. This could change an extremely cold rogue planet into something much more hospitable that could support life.
The paper in the International Journal of Astrobiology includes four scenarios where extraterrestrial civilizations could take advantage of rogue planets.
For the time being, astronomers are still uncertain about how many rogue planets there are. In short, we are still in the beginning stages of understanding these things, but could possibly have a better idea in the near future. The Vera Rubin Observatory should be up and running in 2023, while the James Webb Space Telescope should fully operational in a week or so. For now, we will just have to wait and see where the future takes us beyond the Moon and Mars.
Top Image Credit: Pixabay/Thomas Budach