The discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting the solar system’s closest star, 4.22 light years away, has caused great excitement among the scientific community and excited the imagination of ordinary people across the globe. Proxima Centauri b, as it has been dubbed by scientists, has characteristics that suggest that it may offer suitable conditions for hosting life, and as such may, in time, offer an escape destination for humans once they have depleted the usable resources of their home planet and/or are driven to escape by intra-planetary strife.
Much of the initial reporting has focussed on the practicalities of establishing the physical characteristics of the newly discovered “exoplanet”, with the viability of human colonisation being seen as a very distant prospect by serious researchers. However, new evidence has emerged to suggest that even this seemingly distant haven has already been “discovered” by enterprising Greek explorers.
Images retrieved from the European Extremely Large Telescope and subjected to detailed analysis in the laboratory have revealed hut-like structures closely resembling the Aegean “Type 1” buildings of the Middle Anthropocene, including evidence of Greek script. Although scientists were initially excited by the prospect of discovering life on another planet, epigraphers were able to confirm that the etchings were in fact modern Greek writing. One translated as “Freddo €4.50”, apparently refers to a cold beverage popular in the early 21st century AD, whose distribution is confined to the southern tip of the Balkan penninsula. Archaeo-economists note that the price, quoted in the currency of the time, is vastly inflated compared to that prevailing in surviving records from the mother-planet.
Although scientists were initially hopeful that Proxima b offers a water-rich environment, finds in the area of the makeshift structure suggest that bottled water was imported to the site in small plastic bottles, labelled €1.50 each (approximately three times the regulated Earth price of the time).
Other features appear to confirm the Greek origins of the early colonists of Proxima b. There is a hastily constructed track on the approach to the structure that appears to have been cleared by a bulldozer under cover of darkness (incidentally confirming that the planet did indeed rotate about its axis, another condition for supporting life). Concrete bollards made from used 5-litre olive oil tins and rebar demarcated a flat area, clearly destined for “reserved” space vessel parking. The rusting remains of after-market modified beach buggy (circa 2003 AD), with decals advertising surfing gear and Camel cigarettes were also identified at the site.
Scientists are torn as to the significance of this latest find, and some clearly feel that they have been robbed of the joy of discovery: “Just when you think you’ve found a quiet unspoiled spot in a friendly galaxy where you can really get away from it all, you find some wide boy has got there first and ruined it,” said one bitter boffin, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardising his research grant for three months’s prime telescope time in Hawaii or Mallorca (“depending on the weather and the availability of female co-researchers, but definitely NOT the Atacama desert. No beaches, you see”).
IMAGES: Artist’s impression of the surface of Proxima Centauri b (ESO); artists’s impression of the hut-like structure on Proxima Centauri b (@atlantis_host).