I walked out to the kitchen and saw an unusual sight: my son reading an article from the newspaper all spread out on the breakfast bar; he was entranced. What the heck? My son and I typically avoid the newspaper to preserve mental health. My son has reached a milestone: he hasn't talked about dragons in more than a week at least, although he still likes to lay in his room gazing at his dragon drawings lining his bedroom walls. Rather than a single-minded focus on the mythical, his mind now is literally 120 trillion miles away, on a newly discovered planet, known indescribably as GL-581c until more can be learned about it. It's an exciting discovery because the average temperature of this planet is comparable to ours, and thus holds promise for its potential to harbor life. The planet, one and half times the diameter of earth, orbits a small sun known as a red dwarf (Gliese 581) which is of of the closest stars to our own sun at a mere 20.5 light years away.
Scientists have no clue yet what kind of atmosphere envelopes this planet, it could be thick gaseous acid haze that turns our skin to glue. It might even have frozen water at its core. The view from the space station would be interesting: the red dwarf sun is smaller, cooler, and closer than our own--more dimly lit, so it might appear as a large luminous red ball dominating the foreground of the atmosphere. The gravitational pull is stronger, so you'd weigh more--a disconcerting thought if you don't already like the numbers on the scale. My son thinks we need to figure out how to get here, before we pollute our earth to doomsday. I pointed out that it would take more than a life time to reach this planet, even if it did hold potential for human habitation. He thinks we better get busy developing a time machine to get over this little hurdle. I told him I think he needs to study his math if he wants to be part of lofty scientific conquests, though...it never hurts to dream a little.