By: Sam Ryan
Growing up in the 2000s I marveled at the idea of space travel and the theory that our planet may not be the only one that can sustain life. Movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, and countless others consumed my thoughts so often. I was left pondering if these imaginations of other planets would one day become reality. With the latest discovery led by astronomers at Queens Mary University of London these dreams may come true. What the astronomers found was the exoplanet Proxima B. The nearest star to Earth other than the Sun is known as Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri acts as a sun to Proxima B. It is only 4.2 light years from earth which is around 4 trillion miles away, which is relatively close in terms of space.
With the advancements made in the technology of finding exoplanets, astronomers know of nearly 3,000 planets and 2,500 planet candidates. So what makes Proxima B so special? Proxima B orbits its star in a habitable zone. The habitable zone is the distance a planet must be from the star it orbits that would allow for liquid water to exist. Being within this zone is considered to be an important prerequisite for the development of life. To get an idea of just how delicate the habitable zone is, it is said that if the earth was only .05 AU or 4,647,790 miles off its orbit of the sun, it would be catastrophic for life on earth. Sure 4,647,790 miles would be a pretty long marathon, but in terms of space there are few planets we know of that are in habitable zones. To be exact there are 15 near Earth sized (including proxima b) and 29 way bigger than Earth sized. Proxima B maintains a mass of 1.3 times the size of earth. This indicates that the planet is more likely to be rocky than gaseous.
The ground breaking discovery of Proxima B already has people questioning how we are going to get there. In April of this year, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner pledged $100 million to fund a mission to visit another star system. The mission known as Breakthrough Starshot intends to propel tiny probes the size of an Iphone to 20 percent of the speed of light using lasers. The original destination was going to be Alpha Centauri, but plans have now changed to go to Proxima B. The mission would take pictures of Proxima B and everything else along the way and allow us to know whether there is water and or life. Allocating for the preparation before launch and time to receive the data, the mission expects to see results by 2060.
If you are a sci-fi fanatic like myself, you may be considering the Kazon, Klingon, Romulan, and Vulcan life forms that could inhabit Proxima B. Upon further thought over the topic of extraterrestrial life, I found myself questioning the implications it would have on Christianity. Because I do not have the knowledge of theology as an expert would, I consulted with Mr. Mesisca. Mr. Mesisca is the teacher for Speech and Debate, Jesus and the Gospels, and World Religions classes. He has also authored a Christian apologetics textbook entitled, “Constructing A Christian Worldview”. When I asked Mr. Mesisca what the Christian response to life on another planet would be, he said that it would be more evidence for God because if he did it once he could do it again. Mr. Mesisca argues that the miracle of life would have to be explained by atheists who cannot as of now prove how life could have come from nothing once. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
I believe one of the most stunning explanations for creationism comes from a section of Mr. Mesisca’s book. “In order to produce life at the time it began, British physicist Paul Davies estimated a finely tuned number that must be accurate within one part in the 1060 degrees. In other words, if the temperature was not precisely what it was when life began, there would still be no life on Earth.” Davies acknowledged that such stunning accuracy is surely one of the greatest mysteries of cosmology. I believe this shows the glory of God and his precision when constructing the universe. Whatever Proxima B and the rest of the universe holds is for now unseen but the miracle of life and the presence of God is within our own world.