These holidays many of us planned to go on a trip and thus escape a few days from the city. Today we propose to you to leave home and take this trip. In fact, not only leaving the city, but the country, the planet and even our solar system. Choose your destination: paradisiacal beaches with double sunsets, infinite mountains or lush jungle forests. It is a journey with the imagination, so they can dream at will.
The idea of leaving our planet, however, is not just an exercise in imagination. The European Space Agency (ESA), for example, has created a consortium of companies, including that of the British Norman Foster, to study the feasibility of building cities on the Moon and on Mars using 3D printers. However, these projects are only the beginning. Ultimately, the survival of the human species will depend on the ability to travel far beyond Mars, outside of the solar system. Not only because of the limited life of the Sun, but because of many other dangers that lurk in our galaxy.
Outside the solar system, the closest destination we can dream of is the planet Proxima b, discovered in 2016 by the team of the Spanish Guillem Anglada-Escud. Despite being the closest, the distance to this planet is about 40,000,000,000,000 km, so using rocket boosters it would take us about 75,000 years to arrive. However, the technology to create rockets approaching the speed of light (maximum limit achievable according to the laws of physics) is ceasing to be science fiction and within a century it is possible that we can reach these destinations in a while. more reasonable (we will talk about this another week).
Today, however, we are going to be even more ambitious. We are not going to think that we can do it in hundreds, but in thousands or millions of years and we are going to escape, not from our solar system, but from our galaxy. Imagination is not confined by anyone. Millions of years from now we will be bordering on immortality, we will be able to withstand radiation from outer space and travel at speeds close to the speed of light. Are there any limits to our exploration of the Universe? The answer is yes.
Galaxies, like humans, are gregarious and very rarely alone. Our Milky Way, along with the Andromeda galaxy and a few dozen smaller galaxies, is part of a group of galaxies that we call the Local Group. The Local Group is about 10 million light years in size, which, although it may seem very large (it certainly is), represents only 0.00000000001% of the universe that we can currently observe. The Local Group is one of the hundreds of groups that are part of the Laniakea supercluster (huge sky in Hawaiian) which, in turn, is one of the millions of observable superclusters. Well, as much as technology advances, if our model of the Universe does not prove to be wrong, this is our limit. We can never leave the Local Group. Billions of years from now we will remain confined. The culprit in this case is also invisible, but at least it has a more suggestive name, dark energy.
Millions of years from now we will be bordering on immortality, we will be able to withstand radiation from outer space and travel at speeds close to the speed of light. Are there any limits to our exploration of the Universe? The answer is yes.
The closest group of galaxies to us is already millions of light years away. However, like the other groups in the Universe, it is moving away from us and, due to dark energy, it is doing it faster and faster. In a few billion years, these groups will be moving away at speeds that we will hardly be able to reach with our ships, so however much we head towards them, we will never be able to get close. The Local group, however, will remain united thanks to gravity. In fact, it will become more and more united to the point that all the galaxies will merge into one, the Lactomeda galaxy.
The inhabitants of Lactomeda, many of whom will be human beings but will no longer live on Earth, will be free of epidemics and will live much longer than we do. However, they will have a lot to envy us. In Lactomeda no new stars will form anymore, so they will not be able to contemplate the beautiful shapes and colors of the regions where this occurs. Nor will they have the opportunity to know the details of the Big Bang, since the radiation that has allowed us to study the first moments of the Universe will not be visible to them. They will also not be able to observe the first galaxies formed or quasars, so they will not be able to learn about the expansion of the Universe. In fact, even the light coming from the closest galaxies will become weaker and weaker and there will come a time when these humans only see a single galaxy, theirs. They will think that the Universe is static and eternal, thus returning to the first visions of the Aristotelian universe.
Despite galactic confinement, dont be overwhelmed. The Local Group is very large and we have not yet been able to leave the solar system. Furthermore, we still have billions of stars to explore in the Milky Way. It is important to remember, however, how immensely fortunate we are to be living at the right time to be able to see, not only our future, but also our most distant past. From our little corner of the Universe we can observe all its grandeur and extreme beauty, even without leaving home.
Patricia Snchez Blzquez She is a full professor at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).
Pablo G. Prez Gonzlez He is a researcher at the Astrobiology Center, dependent on the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the National Institute of Aerospace Technique (CAB / CSIC-INTA).
Cosmic Void It is a section in which our knowledge of the universe is presented in a qualitative and quantitative way. It is intended to explain the importance of understanding the cosmos not only from the scientific point of view but also philosophical, social and economic. The name cosmic vacuum refers to the fact that the universe is and is, for the most part, empty, with less than 1 atom per cubic meter, despite the fact that, paradoxically, there are quintillions of atoms per meter in our environment cubic, which invites reflection on our existence and the presence of life in the universe.
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