Almost Done!

Almost Done!

Hey all! I have more in the way of novel-writing news. For starters, The Cronian Incident is now just a few chapters short of completion. After over a year of writing, editing, and back and forth with my prospective-publisher, the novel is just about finished. All told, it is now 31 chapters long and just over 85,000 words in length. I anticipate it will be about 100,000 by the time its finished, though I have been known to exceed estimates in the past!

And as per my agreement with my publisher, I have begun working on its sequel. Apparently, publishers like to know the people they sign have more books in them. And they prefer to release sequels within a few months of the first book, to ensure that any buzz they generate with the first release can be capitalized on. Lucky for me I had plans for a second and third novel before my publisher and I started talking, not to mention some spin offs.

So here’s the commercial description for the proposed sequel (i.e. what you’d read on the back of the dust jacket), as well as a rundown on some other ideas I’m working on:

The Jovian Manifesto:

The Solar System is in the midst of a crisis. In the Jovian and Cronian systems, the populations are up in arms, thanks to an inflammatory document that has appeared on the local nets. Known as “The Jovian Manifesto”, this document details how a powerful faction in the Inner Solar System conspired to seize control over the moons of Callisto and Titan and forcibly alter them. Behind the leak is a mysterious personality known only as Clio, who is threatening to release all the details unless the guilty parties come forward.

Back on Venus, a former analyst named Valéria Gallego is called before the Solar Assembly to investigate the Manifesto and its author. In this, she is assisted by Kadera, an infiltration specialist who can get in and out of any location in the Solar System. If they can determine its authenticity, perhaps they can prevent open conflict. But if not, the Inner Worlds may have no choice but to send armed forces to the Outer Worlds to ensure peace and stability.

Meanwhile, a string of violent acts has threatened to bring things ever closer to the brink. For Gallego and all those who are seeking the truth, time is running out…

Luna Invictus:

Now this is a book that doesn’t come with a commercial description, just a general one. But it is set in the same universe as The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto. Here’s what I am thinking. Basically, I wanted to do a story set on the Moon, ca. the 22nd century, when the Moon is now effectively colonized,,,

Between the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, the Russians (Roscosmos), India (the ISRO), and China (CNSA), the lunar surface now has multiple permanent settlements. Whereas the ESA and NASA have established themselves at the southern polar region – in a domed settlement in the Shackleton Crater – and the Chinese have established a colony in the northern polar region, the Russians and Indians have claimed the mid-latitudes, where stable lava tubes have allowed for the creation of underground cities.

And on the “Dark Side” of the Moon – that is to say, the side looking away from Earth – are a series of installations known as the Unrestricted Zones. It is here that all kinds of weird research, development and experiments take place. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computing, and man-machine interface – anything goes in these places! Ever since the explosion in learning that took place during the previous century, places all over Earth and the Moon have become dedicated to pursuing technological progress and integration without restriction.

And it is here that a young man named Frankling Houte is seeking to go. Years ago, his sister – named Constant Houte – chose to undergo a procedure where her organic brain would be augmented by merging it with quantum components. But after all contact ceased, he is determined to find her and return her home. But whereas Franklin fancies himself a brave rescuer, it is his sister who will come to save him.

Transverse:

This story will take place entirely in a generation ship that is making its way towards the nearby star system. Within the confines of this self-contained world, thousands of humans have committed to waiting and working for generations as their massive ship – the Traverse Velocity, which in astronomical terms refers to the speed at which a star moves perpendicular to our line of sight – transports them to an Earth-like world outside of our Solar System.

The location of that world is up for grabs at the moment, mainly because new discoveries are being made all the time. Did you hear about the latest exoplanet discovery, located about 39 light years away and already said to be the “best place to look for signs of life beyond the Solar System”? Between that and new findings that claims how previous discoveries are not likely to be habitable after all, I’ve decided to leave the destination blank until I actually start writing it!

But of course, no story would be complete without some intrigue and big ol’ inciting event! And the way I see it, things begin to go awry when the Captain and crew get notification that one of the passengers has awakened from cryosleep prematurely and disappeared into the ship. Shortly thereafter, one of the crew is found dead in what appears to be a sabotage attempt gone wrong. A ship-wide search begins to find the culprit while the atmosphere quickly devolves into one of paranoia and suspicion.

To make matter worse, the crew becomes aware of another ship that is threatening to catch up and overtake them. It seems that another faction from the Solar System, which was also intent on settling (insert exoplanet here) is now trying to get their ahead of them. What began as a journey to a new world, characterized by hopes and dreams, has become a race to lay claim to a planet. And it appears that the planet may have inhabitants of its own, ones which are not interested in welcoming the intruders.

I Am Signed!

I Am Signed!

After many weeks of waiting and waiting, it has finally happened. A publisher has offered to take me on and I have accepted. Which means that when The Cronian Incident is finally available, it will be a Castrum Publishing product. But before you go thinking its all good news, let me tell you that the road getting here was a bit awkward!

For starters, I was first approached by the man I’m currently working with (let’s call him Paul) back in October. At the time, he was the acquiring editor (AE) for the science-fiction and space opera division of a UK-based publishing company. After the usual back and forth with edits and suggestions, he said he wanted to sign me for a three book deal and a short story.

Shortly thereafter, he announced to all those authors who he had been working with that he had quit the company over “creative differences”. He also told me in a private email that he would still be interested in signing me once he got his own press up and running. I was flattered, but kept talking to the press to see where things stood. I was told by Paul’s boss (the AE for the entire operation) I was still in good standing, and he asked me to submit my latest draft for them to look over.

Then, after about a month of waiting, the editor told me he was handing me off to someone they had hired to fill Paul’s shoes. At about the same time, Paul contacted me again and said his press was up and rolling and wanted to know if I had signed anything yet. I said I had not, but was still waiting on a reply. He said cool, and that if I was interested, he would give me a contract with the standard rules, rights, and royalties. In other words, distribution via paperback, ebook and audiobook, with a 40% cut of each.

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I was more than prepared to jump ship because honestly, I wasn’t sure about them and only really decided to sign on because I had had the chance to talk to Paul extensively and trusted him as an editor. You could say we shared a lot of the same goals and he seemed entirely on the up and up. But of course, I wanted to do my due diligence.

So I naturally started knocking on Tickety Boo’s door to see what was going on. The owner himself got back to me and asked me to send him my latest manuscript. He said if it grabbed him in the first ten pages, we would be good to go. I seriously didn’t know what the hell was going on, as I’d already submitted my manuscript to his company multiple times and had been given the green light by his former acquiring editor (Paul), and the AE above him.

In any case, I did as he asked and was told he would get back to me in 24 hours. When that time has passed, I let him know that I had a competing and needed an answer. He messages me back to say  he was willing publish my book, but that it would need like two big editing sweeps, and he was only willing to give me 30% royalties until it proved its worth. He also made it clear he wasn’t about to get into any bidding.

Less than an hour later, he messaged me again and said his editors had “overruled” him and he was not going to publish me. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. But it genuinely felt like he was at first trying to shake me down, and then just dropped me. I also noted the timing and how it seemed rather conspiratorial. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought the mention of another offer made him get defensive.

This also came after a month of runaround from his operation, which Paul had quit because (as he explained just recently) he didn’t like the way they were treating their authors. After all this, I could certainly see why some people felt this way. And so I emailed Paul back and said we were a go. I also let him know that I had already decided to sign with him, but wanted to make sure I didn’t leap without looking.

So the good news is that I am a go and should be ready to see my book in print within a few months time! The only bad news would be it took awhile to get to this point and I had to get the runaround from some jerkoff and his printing press in the process! But it’s the journey, not the destination, right?

So expect to hear regular updates on the progress of this story as it goes from final draft to on sale. And expect updates on its proposed sequel – The Jovian Manifesto – which is currently in the works!

Updates, Complications, and the Ongoing Struggle to get S#%* Done!

Updates, Complications, and the Ongoing Struggle to get S#%* Done!

Hey everybody. I know that these days, I have a tendency to post only occasional updates on my blog these days. Hopefully that is something that will change in the near future. But one of the upsides of this is that I always have plenty of news to share when I DO post.

Speaking of which, a LOT has happened in the past few months. For one, I’ve been sick January, which means that I’ve been sick for about seven weeks straight now. This has to be the longest bout of flu that I’ve ever suffered from. And I tell ya, it really sucks! An upside to this is the fact that I’ve severely curtailed my alcohol and sugar consumption. This has been great for my health, though I’ve also missed a lot of exercise because I’ve been too tired and stuffy to train or hit the gym. Life always seems to make you compromise, huh?

Next, on January 21st, I had some really good news. After months of back and forth with my prospective publisher (Tickety Boo Press), I finally got a chance to have a face-to-face with the acquiring editor. Well, it was on Skype, but that counts these days! After talking about edits, he said that the company would like to sign me for a three book deal and a short story! However, about a week later, the same man sent out a mass email saying he quit the press over creative differences. This meant that guys like me (who had not signed a contract yet) needed to scramble to make sure we still had a deal.

Luckily, I managed to talk to the senior editor over at Tickety Boo and learned that I still had a spot in their 2017 catalog. Unfortunately, I still had to forward this man the latest copy of the five chapter treatment of my manuscript and wait for his thoughts on it. After weeks of waiting, he informed me the other day that they had a new acquiring editor for their SF division, so I now had someone who I could contact and who would be able to promptly get back to me.

On that same front, I am almost finished the manuscript for The Cronian Incident. After a lot of revising, merging, snipping and editing, I now have a 30+ chapter story that should be about 90,000 words once its all done. Just a few chapters to go, and I can begin making final edits and revisions before sending the whole thing off to the publisher. That is a huge relief, I tell you! After working this idea in my head for over a year, it feels good to finally be getting it all down on paper.

Let’s see… other news. Oh yeah, in the past few months, I also got do so something really cool for my job. This consisted of my participating in NASA call-in briefing, which I did on two occasions. The first occasion took place early in January, when NASA was announcing their latest Discovery missions. One is known as the Lucy mission, which will examine Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids to learn more about the formation of the early Solar System. The other, known as Psyche, will be exploring an asteroid in the Main Belt that is made entirely of metal. It is believed that this is actually the core remnant of a Mars-sized planet that lost its mantle after colliding with other massive objects.

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The fun part happened during the phone-in portion, where we got to ask the Principal Investigators of each mission questions. Since I had written about the Psyche mission in the past, I decided to nut-up and ask a question. It took me some time to come up with something I thought was half-way intelligent, but finally called in. It came to me when she said that the mission could help shed light on how metallic cores  generated planetary magnetic fields (which is the current scientific consensus).

Addressing Psyche’s PI, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, I asked if studying this core’s magnetic environment could help teach us why Mars lost its magnetic field billions of years ago. Since this caused it to lose its atmosphere, thus becoming a cold, desiccated world which no longer could support rivers, lakes and oceans, learning more about how cores generate magnetic fields could help us to locate habitable worlds in the future.

She acknowledged that it was a good question, and that she really wasn’t sure. But she said they hoped that their study of Psyche could help shed light on questions like this in the future and they would have to see what they found. Suffice it to say, I was very pleased with myself! Rather than laughing at me or answering in such a way that told me that my question was brain-dead, she seemed genuinely impressed with the question and hoped that they could answer it some day.

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The second call-in happened towards the end of February. My boss told me NASA had some huge news to announced of an exoplanet-hunting nature and gave me the job of calling in. So I did, and got to hear firsthand about the discovery of seven exoplanets around the same star – TRAPPIST-1 – and how three of them are not only comparable in size to Earth, but orbit within the star’s habitable zone.

Naturally, this was very exciting news! This time, rather than stick around for question period, I hung up almost immediately after the announcement was finished and began writing about it furiously. It was both fun and a real privilege to be the one to break this story for our publication. And the hits were pretty mad!

That’s about it, I think. It’s been a busy post-holiday wrap up. And now that we are getting into Spring, I am happily looking forward to a few things. And I hope to be able to convey some of them as they happen, rather than months after the fact! Thanks for reading 🙂

New Trailer – Blade Runner 2049!

New Trailer – Blade Runner 2049!

After many years of starts and stops, the fandom community has been pretty excited that we are finally getting a Blade Runner sequel. Whether or not it will be the sequel we want  remains to be seen (we all remember Jar Jar!). In any case, the first teaser trailer has just come out. As you can see, it shows Ryan Gosling in the lead role, with Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard.

As was likely the intent, this trailer establishes that there is a passing of the torch between Ford and Gosling, who has become a Blade Runner himself. And if I had to guess, I would say the whole exchange (which takes place at gunpoint) indicates that the plot will center on what Deckard did at the end of the previous movie – which was to run off with Rachael (a Replicant) to make a life with her.

The movie is scheduled for release in October of 2017, and includes performances by Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, and Ana de Armas.  Check it out!

Good News… of a Literary Nature!

Good News… of a Literary Nature!

First off, let me apologize for not announcing this sooner. But as with all good things, I didn’t want to announce anything prematurely or risk jinxing it. To put it simply, I have been approached by a publisher about my current work in progress – The Cronian Incident. And while nothing has been put in writing just yet, if all goes well, it will be part of Space Dock’s 2017 publishing catalog – which is the sci-fi subsidiary for a UK publisher.

To  start at the beginning, back in October, this publisher sent me a message via Facebook. It seemed that we were part of the same writer’s group, and he had heard me going on about The Cronian Incident and all the ideas I was exploring to create it. Apparently, this is something lots of publishers do these days, which is rely on social media to look for aspiring authors.

Anyhoo, I replied to him that I would be interested, and that the manuscript (though not yet complete) was coming along nicely. Over the course of the next few weeks, we did the usual back and forth. He explained what they were looking for and asked me about my long-term plans, I told him about the overall story and how I hoped to write sequels to it.

Jupiter's larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA
Jupiter’s larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA

 

He then asked me to send the first four chapters to see if it had promise. Here too, I learned something valuable. These days, its the first four chapters (not five, not three) that make-or-break many online sales. You see, people using Amazon are able to download these as a sample and will base their decision to buy the whole book depending on whether or not it’s grabbed their interest.

So the first notes the publisher gave me was that he liked the idea, but also stressed that the beginning needed “a hook”. There was little in the first four chapters of my original draft to introduce the overall plot, they said, and things kind of built slowly. So I revised it, added a prologue that contains the “inciting event” of the story (a kidnapping) and sent it back. This met with his approval, and he sent it on to one of his editors for a second look.

And just a few days ago, they got back to me again. Once again, I got some kudos on the story, but more concerns that things take too long to develop. However, this time around, it was more in the form of a suggestion. I took this to be a good sign, but of course I took the suggestion seriously. These people know what readers are likely to buy, so I’m not about to disregard their recommendations.

Terrafomed Mars by ittiz
Terrafomed Mars, one of the focal points of the story. Credit: ittiz

So I’m doing a second round of edits now, and working to complete the novel so its ready for the 2017 publishing season. At this point, I’m over 70,000 words into the story, and I imagine there’s about ten more chapters to go. At this rate, I can estimate that the final product will be probably be about 100,000 words (though that is likely to come down after all the editing is finished).

And like I said, nothing has been signed yet so nothing is written in stone. But so far, I’m pretty enthused about how things are going. It’s taken me over ten years to actually get to the point where a publisher was interested in my work and contacted me. In the meantime, feel free to join me in being cautiously optimistic!

Back from Europe 2016 – Part II

Back from Europe 2016 – Part II

Hey again, folks! I find myself with some free time again, and wanted to continue telling people about my family and my trip to Europe this past June. Last time, I recounted our trip to Northern France and our lovely time we spent in the small town of Grangues, where we got to pay our respects to those who died during D-Day and the liberation of Normandy – which included my great uncle Wilmot Pettit.

Today, I would like to mention everything else we did while in Normandy during the D-Day celebrations. There was plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to experience at the time. Literally, an entire region was on its feet celebrating the 72nd anniversary of their liberation, complete with recreations, guided tours, and countless commemorative ceremonies.

Bayeux:

While in France, we stayed just outside the town of Bayeux, the historic location of the Bayeux Tapestry (which tells the story of William the Conquerors conquest of England) and one of the first towns to be liberated during the Battle of Normandy. Before moving on to Grangues, we stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast called the Ferme de la Gronde, which is a converted country estate.

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Ferme de la Gronde, France

One of the things that we immediately noticed when checking in was the lovely, musty smell of the place. Everything smelled like old stone walls and plaster, like we were staying in a medieval church or castle. But of course, that’s understandable, since the estate itself surely dates back to the Middle Ages and the same construction techniques that went into the Bayeux Cathedral were surely used.

The first day was tough. When we arrived, we were running on very little sleep and had been in transit for almost twelve hours. And then there was the nine hour time different to factor in. And the first night, our sleep was a bit restless. There’s nothing like exhaustion and jet lag to disturb your sleep! But we happened to see some wonderful things on our way into town and our first day reconnoitering.

For instance, the town of Bayeux was already packed with veterans from across the Channel. And the poppies and signs that said “Welcome to our Liberators” were out in full force. So the streets were pretty busy throughout the day, and pretty packed at night. The Bayeux Cathedral was also holding ceremonial services to mark the anniversary of the liberation. Basically, despite our fatigue, an energizing mood was in the air!

And after our first (restless) sleep, we began plotting our tour of the Normandy Beaches! And here’s what we got up to…

Arromanches:

Our first stop was to the town of Arromanches, located on the coast. During D-Day, this town was the site of Gold Beach landings, and also became the locations where the Allies placed one of their Mulberry Harbors (the other being installed at Omaha Beach). These artificial ports

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The town of Arromanches, with a view of the English Channel

In 2014, my folks, my wife, and I visited this lovely town and took a tour of the D-Day museum there. But this time around, the attraction was the bagpipers, crowds, and celebrations marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation. As soon as we arrived, we got swept up in the festivities. And after walking the beach, ascending the hill in town (at the top is a Sherman tank), and grabbing some lunch, we moved onto our next stop!

Point-du-Hoc:

Any American readers ought to instantly recognize this name. During D-Day, the US Army Ranger Assault Group scaled the cliffs (while under fire) at this point along the Normandy coast to take out a series of German heavy guns. Once they reached the top, they realized that the guns have been relocated, and fought their way inland to find the guns and destroy them.

Today, this site is well preserved. Not only are the craters from where Allied naval artillery hit still evident, but the crews that tend the grounds have done a good job ensuring that most of the fortifications have remained intact.

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Empty gun emplacement at Point-du-Hoc, June, 2016
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And that’s me atop one of the gun emplacements at Point-du-Hoc

I was reminded of Longues-sur-Mer, a coastal battery that we visited in 2014, in many ways. At both sites, the old cement bunkers still sit in the earth, worn and weathered. Even the ones that were hit during D-Day and destroyed are still a testament to what happened there, over 70 years ago.

And like everywhere else in Normandy at the time, the place was flooded with tourists and re-enactors were everywhere, dressed up in US Army Ranger uniforms and conducting tours. And much like the other sites along the Normandy coast where the Allies came ashore, there is a museum there, maintained by the American Battle Monument Commission.

One thing we were a little baffled by was the monument that overlooks the cliffs. One the one hand, it kind of resembles a sword with a cross guard sticking out of the ground. On the other hand, it looks like a menhir, which may be culturally significant as far as the region’s ancient inhabitants are concerned. Any other comparisons are ones I will not make (and I respectfully ask that nobody else do so either!). Needless to say, we all thought it looked a bit weird.

The Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc in France. Credit: abmc.gov
The Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc in France. Credit: abmc.gov

Juno Beach:

Next, we traveled to the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, a relatively quiet town that sits on the Normandy Coast. This town is made famous due to the fact that it sits next to the 8 km (5 mi) stretch of beach where the Canadian liberation force – which consisted of 14,000 troops belonging to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade – came ashore on D-Day.

This was the second time my family and I visited this site together, and about the fourth or fifth time my mother and father had. And in addition to walking the beach again to see if we couldn’t put ourselves into the mindset of the soldiers that came ashore under fire, we also visited the Juno Beach Center. As a point of interest, my aunt – who is a high-school principal back in Brantford, Ontario and the the one who introduced my father to the battlefield tours – sits on the museum’s board of directors.

Juno Beach, Normandy Coast, June 2016
My wife, father, and I, approaching my mother on Juno Beach, Normandy Coast, June 2016

As such, my father will drop her name any time we are there to see if they know her. So typical of him, always proud of his sister! However, this year, we didn’t take the tour of the museum (as we had in 2014). This was just our second day of our trip, and we were all still very jetlagged and tired. And after visiting three major D-Day sites, we were more than a little bit tired. As such, after grabbing some lunch from the vendors that line the waterfront, we decided to make one last stop at the Commonwealth cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer before heading back to Bayeux.

It is here that Canadians soldiers who died on D-Day are interred. And after paying our respects and laying Canadian flag pins on the graves of any Williams’ and Wilson’s (my father and mother’s family names) as is our custom, we headed back to Bayeux to enjoy some delicious food at the same place we dined the night before – Le Garde Manger, which sits in the shadow of the Bayeux Cathedral. Some Affligem beers and some tasty entrees, and we were ready to call it a night!

The Juno Beach Center, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. Credit: junobeach.org
The Juno Beach Center, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. Credit: junobeach.org

And that was just the first two days! What followed is what I covered in the first installment. This included packing up and leaving Bayeux, traveling to the small town of Grangues, and participating in their commemorative ceremony to remember all those who died to liberate their country (of which my great uncle, Wilmot Pettit, was one), and those who died in both WWI and WWII. You can read about that experience here.

Given that I’ve really been taking my time to write these, I apologize for the fact that they are only covering a few things at a time. I promise to be speedier in giving the next one… and the next one. Hopefully, I can cover the entirety of the trip and the significance it had in just a few more posts. Wish me luck, and a happy belated Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day to all!

My First Article for Popular Mechanics!

My First Article for Popular Mechanics!

There’s a potentially Earth-like planet around the closest star to Earth—that’s the space headline that captured the world’s imagination this summer. But here’s something that was easy to forget in all that furor over Proxima Centauri. Our neighboring star doesn’t look anything like the Sun.

We humans have known only one life-sustaining planet in the universe: a green-and-blue globe called Earth. So perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking the ideal ingredients for creating life must resemble what we se here: a bunch of planets around a medium-sized yellow star.

Mind-expanding missions like the Kepler Space Observatory, however, have scientists questioning whether a solar system like ours really is the perfect place to hunt for new Earths and the possibility of life beyond our planet. Lately, astronomers have been taking a closer look at red dwarfs—stars with low mass, low temperatures, and slow rates of fusion.These stars don’t look much like our life-giving Sun, but they make up almost 70 percent of the observable stars in the sky and could survive for trillions of years—far longer than our star.

If we’re going to find life beyond our solar system, many scientists believe it will be orbiting a red dwarf. Here’s why.

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Artist’s impression of a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. Credit: ESO

The Alien Worlds of Red Dwarfs

In the past, planet-hunters thought the odds of finding potentially habitable worlds around red dwarfs were quite low. Because of their low mass and temperature, red dwarfs emit just 3 percent as much light as our sun. For an orbiting planet not to freeze into an uninhabitable iceball, it would need to be as close to the star as Mercury is to our Sun. Unfortunately, being so close to a star means the planets probably would be tidally locked, where one side is constantly facing the star and the other side always faces away. Not ideal conditions for creating life.

Red dwarfs are also far less stable compared to larger stars, undergoing sudden rises and drops in the amount of light and heat they emit. This creates big variations in temperature, adding yet another challenge for budding life.

If we’re going to find life beyond our solar system, it will likely be orbiting a red dwarf.

It’s not all bad news, though. Red dwarfs have a considerable advantage over other stars in their incredible lifespans. Our Sun has been around for 4.57 billion years, yet humanity has existed for just 200,000 years. Life takes a long time, and complex life even more so.

Time is one thing red dwarfs have plenty of—they can exist for trillions of years because of their low mass and slow rate of nuclear fusion. Since they’re also so common in our cosmos, the odds of finding planets within that habitable Golidlocks zone is statistically high. For astronomers, the pros are starting to outweigh the cons.

Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri
Artist’s impression of what the surface of Proxima b could look like. Credit: ESO

The Case for Going Red

In 2005, astronomers from around the world converged on Mountain View, California, for a workshop sponsored by The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) where scientists argued the case that red dwarf stars could be the best place to look for aliens. In the end, it comes down to sheer probability. Within 33 light years of Earth there were 240 known red dwarfs at the time, compared to just 21 stars like ours.

Although red dwarfs are hard to find because they’re dim, once they’re spotted it’s much easier to see how many chunks of rock are in orbit. The so-called transit method of finding exoplanets, which the Kepler telescope used to great effect, relies on looking for changes in brightness caused by a planet passing in front of its star. It looks something like this:

Because planets orbiting a red dwarf are likely to hug their stars so tightly, the orbital period is often just a few days long, which makes for pretty good odds of seeing such a transit.

New Worlds Emerge

Since that SETI conference more than a decade ago, oodles of new planets orbiting red dwarfs have been discovered. Between 2005 and 2010, astronomers found six exoplanets orbiting Gliese 581, a red dwarf located about 20 light years from Earth. Two of these planets, Gliese 581-c and -d, lie on the inner and outer edge the star’s habitable zone. Another exoplanet, Gliese 581-g, may also have an orbit fit for habitability (though its existence is still contested).

In 2012, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) published the results of a spectrographic survey that examined 102 red dwarf stars in the Milky Way over the course of six years. They found that red dwarf stars were more likely to have an Earth-like planet orbiting them than a gas giant. Two years later, another ESO study concluded that virtually all red dwarfs in the universe have at least one exoplanet orbiting them. At least a quarter of them have a super-Earth (a planet like ours but slightly bigger) orbiting within their habitable zones.

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Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The drumbeat goes on. This past July, researchers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) released a study in which the team calculated the likelihood of Earth-like planets forming within our universe over cosmic timescales, starting with the first stars to form, billions of years ago, and continuing into the distant future. They determined that low-mass red dwarf stars would be more likely than giant stars to maintain a system of planets long enough for life to emerge, and that likelihood only increased with time.

“We considered the likelihood of ‘life as we know it’ to form between the appearance of the first stars and the death of the last stars,” Professor Avi Loeb, a science professor at Harvard University and the lead author on the paper, told PM. ” We found that the likelihood peaks in the distant future around low-mass stars, simply because these stars live much longer than the Sun.”

Other discoveries made in the past five years have also bolstered the case for habitable planets around red dwarf stars with exoplanet candidates around Innes Star, Kepler 42, Gliese 832, Gliese 667, Gliese 3293, and most recently Proxima Centauri. All of these star systems are located relatively close to our own, though still impossibly out of reach with only today’s space-faring technology.

In the coming years, as more exoplanet hunters like the James Webb Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite look to the sky, it’s probable that scientists and astronomers will focus much of their efforts on nearby red dwarf stars.

“One of the great discoveries made in the past decade or so is that it seems like there are planets all over the place,” TESS project scientist Stephen Rinehart told PM, “even around these small stars so different from our own.”

See it here: Popular Mechanics