Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia have discovered a new planet they believe could be habitable for life, and it's closer than any such planet discovered so far.
The planet, named Wolf 1061c, is only 14 light years away. It's the closest confirmed planet to sit within a star's Goldilocks zone, which is a distance around a star considered to be not too close, and not too far away, for life to be possible.
So how long would it take to get to Wolf 1061c or travel 14 light years with current technology? While 14 light years is relatively close compared to other such planets, and practically right next door even in our own galaxy, it would still take awhile at our current abilities.
So far, the fastest a man-made object has ever traveled is about 90,000 miles per hour. NASA achieved this when they had their JUNO Mission spacecraft slingshot around earth and accelerate to 25 miles per second.
Now, before we talk about just how slow 90,000 miles per hour is compared to the speed of light, let's recognize just how fast 90,000 miles per hour is. Earth has a circumference of 24,901 miles, meaning you can travel completely around the earth in about 16 1/2 minutes at that speed. New York to Sydney, Australia is a 9,962 mile flight. At 90,000 miles per hour, you'll be there in 6 1/2 minutes.
90,000 miles per hour is incredibly fast. Yet, to reach a planet 14 light years away, it's going to take awhile.
Just how far away is 14 light years? A light year is defined as the distance light travels in a full year, and light travels pretty freaking fast. Light travels at a speed of 182,282 miles per second. While our 90,000 mile per hour aircraft circled the globe in 16 1/2 minutes, light circles the globe 7.32 times every second.
182,282 miles per second x 60 seconds in a minute x 60 minutes in an hour = 656,215,200 miles per hour. 14 light years is 656,215,200 miles per hour x 24 hours a day x 365 days a year x 14 years. It's a distance of 80,478,232,128,000 miles. That's 80.478 trillion miles.
Going a distance that great at 90,000 miles doesn't happen quickly. 80,478,232,128,000 miles / 90,000 miles per hour is 894,202,579.2 hours. There are 8,760 hours in a year (365 days x 24 hours). That means an 894,202,579.2-hour trip is going to take us a few years. 894,202,579.2 hours / 8760 hours in a year = 102,077.92 years to be exact.
Yup, 90,000 miles per hour is actually pretty damn slow in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it's 0.000137 the speed of light, or roughly 1/100th of 1 percent of light speed. 90,000 miles per hour compared to the speed of light is kind of like comparing a person riding a bicycle to a rocket ship going 90,000 miles per hour. 90,000 MPH x 0.000137 = 12.33 miles per hour.
Long story short, it's going to take awhile for us to get there if we want to go. Before we get too discouraged, though, we should keep this in mind: we didn't get trains over 12.33 miles per hour until about 1825, when the British set the locomotive speed record of 15 miles per hour. We went from 15 miles per hour to 90,000 miles per hour in less than 200 years. Getting there may not happen in our lifetime, but could still happen sooner than you think.
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