Probably the saddest fact of our lives, aside from every other single thing that makes life a miserable slog, is that none of us are going to be around by the time we figure out how to travel vast distances across space. At least we have iPhones though. But, as we’ve seen throughout the entire history of science fiction, we’re endlessly fascinated with what these distant worlds might be like. Would they be habitable? Does life exist? Do they have a Starbucks?
Three new posters designed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s visual strategists Joby Harris, David Delgado and Dan Goods take an imaginative, and playful shot at presuming what some of the infinite exoplanets out there (the Kepler Space Telescope has recently discovered it’s 1,000th) might be like, riffing on their characteristics, as in this description of Kepler-16b, seen above.
Like Luke Skywalker’s planet “Tatooine” in Star Wars, Kepler-16b orbits a pair of stars. Depicted here as a terrestrial planet, Kepler-16b might also be a gas giant like Saturn. Prospects for life on this unusual world aren’t good, as it has a temperature similar to that of dry ice. But the discovery indicates that the movie’s iconic double-sunset is anything but science fiction.
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our Sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star’s red-wavelength photons, making for a color palette that’s very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA’s planet hunting telescope.
Twice as big in volume as the Earth, HD 40307g straddles the line between “Super-Earth” and “mini-Neptune” and scientists aren’t sure if it has a rocky surface or one that’s buried beneath thick layers of gas and ice. One thing is certain though: at eight time the Earth’s mass, its gravitational pull is much, much stronger.