Let’s be honest: space is an absolutely crazy place. Most science fiction writers throw in a planet with two stars that looks vaguely like Southern California, and call it a day. But the cosmos is a lot stranger than we give it credit for:
Everyone knows that shooting stars are just meteors entering the atmosphere, right? If you didn’t, congratulations—you just failed the fourth grade. What some people don’t know, however, is that real shooting stars exist as well; they’re called hypervelocity stars. These are big, fiery balls of gas rocketing through space at millions of miles per hour.
When a binary star system is gobbled down by the supermassive black hole (that’s the scientific term, by the way) at the center of a galaxy, one of the two partners is consumed, while the other is ejected at high speed. Just try to imagine a huge ball of gas, four times the size of our sun, hurtling out from our galaxy at millions of miles per hour.
The Planet From Hell
Gliese 581 c wants to kill you. Seriously. Scientists have determined that this hell of a planet is the most likely candidate for future colonization, despite the fact the entire planet’s out to get you.
This planet orbits a red dwarf star, many times smaller than our Sun, with a luminosity of only 1.3% of our sun. This means that the planet is far closer to its star than we are to ours. Because of this, it is stuck in a state of tidal locking, meaning that one side of the planet is always facing the star, and one side is always facing away—just like our moon’s relationship with Earth.
The tidal locking of the planet alone results in some pretty odd features. Stepping out onto the star-side of the planet would immediately melt your face off, whereas standing on the opposite side of the planet, where there is no sun, would freeze you instantly. However, in between these two extremes is a small belt where life could theoretically exist.
Living on Gliese 581 c would have its challenges, though. The star it orbits is a Red Dwarf, which means that it is at the lower frequency end of our visible spectrum, bathing the entire sky of Gliese 581 c in a hellish red color. Another side effect of this is the fact that photosynthesizing plants would have to adapt to the constant bombardment of infrared radiation, rendering them a deep black color. That Greek salad wouldn’t seem so appetizing any more…