Here’s something to fire the imagination. This is from the science section of The New York Times this week:
Astronomers said Thursday that they had found the most Earth-like worlds yet known in the outer cosmos, a pair of planets that appear capable of supporting life and that orbit a star 1,200 light-years from here, in the northern constellation Lyra. […]
These planets are roughly half again as large as Earth and are presumably balls of rock, perhaps covered by oceans with humid, cloudy skies, […]
Looming brightly in each other’s skies, the two planets circle their star at distances of 37 million and 65 million miles, about as far apart as Mercury and Venus in our solar system. Most significantly, their orbits place them both in the “Goldilocks” zone of lukewarm temperatures suitable for liquid water, the crucial ingredient for Life as We Know It. […]
Dr. [Lisa] Kaltenegger [of Harvard] and her colleagues concluded that both of them were probably ocean worlds with humid, cloudy skies. Any life on them would probably be aquatic, she said, […]
Dr. Kaltenegger said she envisioned the pair as a kind of Darwinian test tube and wondered in an e-mail if life would evolve on both worlds and, if so, “Would life evolve ‘the same’ way or would there be very different life?”
One thing is reasonably certain. If these are water worlds absent of continents, there is no chance that an advanced civilization has ever evolved on either of them (because intelligent animals need fire and the smelting of metals to achieve sophisticated technologies).
And if both planets evolved animals with eyes, neither would actually see the other in their night skies because this would require coming up out of the water. So there are potential riches in this distant solar system that appear to be just out of reach of the knowledge of the animals that might be inhabiting it. And if any of the animals are conscious and intelligent, they are tragically stuck in their evolution of what they can see, know, and produce. Call these planets, therefore, The Tantalus Twins.