Interstellar space travel could work if we use free-floating planets instead of spacecraft, scientists claim

HUMANITY could one day whiz through the cosmos via free-floating planets, if a scientist’s theory works.

Instead of jumping onto a giant spaceship to escape planetary demise, civilizations could use a free-floating planet, claims a new study presented in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

Mankind could one day whiz through the cosmos via free-floating planets


Mankind could one day whiz through the cosmos via free-floating planets

Free-floating planets are objects of planetary mass that are not currently orbiting a star.

Many of these unfortified planets, each about the size of Jupiter, are found in a region of the Milky Way known as the Upper Scorpius OB stellar association.

And now one researcher, Irina Romanovskaya, suggests that “alien civilizations could use free-floating planets as interstellar transportation to reach, explore, and colonize planetary systems.”

Romanovskaya argues that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations (ETCs) may already be doing this, leaving behind technical signatures in the process.

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“Unexplained emissions of electromagnetic radiation observed only once or a few times along the lines of observation of planetary systems, asterisms, galaxies, and seemingly empty regions of space may be techno-signatures generated on free-floating planets located along the lines of are under observation,” says Romanovskaya.

Where did this theory come from?

To date, astronomers have discovered between 70 and 170 free-floating planets.

And it’s possible these planets carry their own life in subterranean oceans kept warm by radiogenic decay, Science Alert reported.

So whenever a free-floating planet is pulled into a star’s orbit by gravity – effectively making it more hospitable – that life has essentially transported itself into a more habitable environment.

Given this scenario, Romanovskaya asks: Why can’t ETCs do the same?

Free-floating planets, when acting as lifeboats, offer some undeniable advantages, such as “constant surface gravity, ample space and resources,” writes Romanovskaya.

“Free-floating planets with surface and subsurface oceans can provide water as a consumable resource and to protect against space radiation.”

Controlled nuclear fusion as an energy source

In theory, an advanced ETC could pilot a free-floating planet into energy sources through “controlled fusion,” says Romanovskaya.

Fusion, also known as “nuclear fusion,” occurs when two or more atomic nuclei combine to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons).

Because the total mass of the resulting single nucleus is less than the mass of the original two nuclei, mass is left over, which becomes energy.

While the concept of “controlled nuclear fusion” is not yet a reality, researchers have toyed with the idea as a potential energy source.

In the study, Romanovskaya suggests that advanced ETCs may already be using this technique to turn a free-floating planet into a temporary life support object.

Four ways ETCs could travel on free-floating planets

Romanovskaya proposes four scenarios for how ETCs could travel from their homeworlds to free-floating planets.

The first targets free-floating planets passing an ETC homeworld.

When an ETC is advanced enough and free-floating planets commonly approach their homeworld, they may have the ability to recognize and approach it.

The second scenario involves the use of “astronomical technology” to pilot a free-floating planet closer to a civilization’s homeworld so that it can travel to the flyby object.

“Astronomical engineering” describes technologies or methods used to alter the motion of cosmic objects.

Scenario three describes a civilization that could use astronomical technology to actively eject an object from its planetary system, artificially turning it into a free-floating planet.

However, this scenario, which would require very advanced and powerful technology, could present a multitude of potential problems.

For example, introducing a large foreign body into an inner solar system would disrupt the orbits of nearby planets.

And in the fourth scenario, if a civilization could pinpoint when a planet would become free-floating — say, after losing its sun — it could ride that planet out of the dying solar system.

In all of these situations, a civilization could escape doom via a free-floating planet – but it’s important to note that these are only temporary solutions.

“For all of the above scenarios, free-floating planets may not serve as a permanent means of escaping existential threats,” the author explains.

“Eventually, such planets cannot sustain oceans of liquid water (if such oceans exist) because of diminishing heat production within their interiors.”

What about humanity?

In about 5 billion years, our Sun will transform into a red giant, expanding and engulfing the inner planets, including Earth.

If humanity is still around at this time, will we be advanced enough to outlive it?

It’s impossible to know, but if we are, maybe humans will test Romanovskaya’s theory and hop onto a free-floating planet.

Since spacecraft currently lack the capabilities to help us escape existential threats, this method may be the only option for future humans.

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Chris Barrese

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