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A professor of physics and astronomy has suggested travel to another star system could be possible without spaceships.
Irina Romanovskaya, professor at Houston Community College, made her claim in a new research article published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, in which she discusses how Extraterrestrial Civilisations (ETCs) may be able to migrate to new star systems to escape existential threats.
Humanity is set to face such an existential threat in a matter of years – 'a matter', in this case, being about five billion.
So while we're okay for now, generations far in the future will have to deal with the sun becoming a red giant, when it will expand and consume and destroy Mercury, Venus, Earth and maybe even Mars, according to Science Alert.
If humans had to escape an existential threat, interstellar travel might be the way to do it, though unsurprisingly there are not yet any spaceships that could get us even to our nearest neighbouring solar system, the Alpha Centauri system.
However, Romanovskaya suggests starships may not be necessary, and that ETCs may instead be able to rely on free-floating planets, otherwise known as rogue planets, to make the journey.
She explains: "I propose that extraterrestrial civilizations may use free-floating planets as interstellar transportation to reach, explore, and colonize planetary systems."
The author pitches free-floating planets as viable options by noting they 'can provide constant surface gravity, large amounts of space and resources'.
"Free-floating planets with surface and subsurface oceans can provide water as a consumable resource and for protection from space radiation," Romanovskaya adds.
As well as offering a way for interstellar travel, Romanovskaya also suggested such travel could leave technosignatures and artifacts that may prove useful in the search for other civilisations, writing: "I propose possible technosignatures and artifacts that may be produced by extraterrestrial civilizations using free-floating planets for interstellar migration and interstellar colonization, as well as strategies for the search for their technosignatures and artifacts."
However, should humanity successfully find a way to utilise these planets, Romanovskaya notes they 'may not serve as a permanent means of escape from existential threats' due to the waning heat production in their interior, which means they would fail to sustain oceans of water.
"Therefore, instead of making free-floating planets their permanent homes, extraterrestrial civilizations would use the free-floating planets as interstellar transportation to reach and colonize other planetary systems," the professor explains.
Astronomers are not yet certain how many rogue planets there are in the solar system, though last year researchers announced the discovery of between 70 and 170 rogue planets in one region of the Milky Way.
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