One day in the year 1980 humans receive a message from an alien race. It reads a little something like this:
Hey guys, real sorry, but a weapon we launched in an excercise malfunctioned and is heading toward your solar system. When it arrives, all atomic particles within 5 astronomical units of the center of your sun will instantly and magically disappear, poof (no explosion or anything). We recommend that you evacuate the system. If you have not already detected the weapon, then your technology is far too primitive to deactivate or intercept it.
At the time of this message's writing, we are aware of several star systems near yours that may contain planets habitable to the majority of your planet's native lifeforms.
Some more details follow, from which we learn that:
- The weapon will arrive and activate in March 2030
- The weapon is coming from a specific direction (we can see it with many of our telescopes, it's clearly not natural, and it's still close to 50 light years away and traveling at very close to the speed of light, so it's clearly not manmade either). In other words it's pretty clearly not a hoax.
- We truly don't have much hope of stopping it.
- The message has traveled for about thirty million years at the speed of light, meaning the star systems it mentions were observed in the state they were in about sixty million years prior to year 1980 (if I got that right). The aliens are aware of this and adjusted their suggestions as best as they could.
The list of potentially habitable star systems is ranked by relative predicted livability. The aliens are not sure how livable they are, or even if any of them are livable. They also don't mention planets specifically, so it's possible they are making these calculations solely based on the characteristics of the stars themselves, but we don't know. All of the stars appear to us to be very much like our sun.
Star system A
Distance: 24 light years
Star system B
Distance: 19 light years
Star system C
Distance: 8 light years
Star system D
Distance: 12 light years
Star system E
Distance: 36 light years
So... what do we do?
Keep in mind:
- We have from 1980 to 2030 to (assuming there's political will) focus an intense international effort on solving this problem and potentially develop some technologies a bit more advanced than we would otherwise expect (or maybe not). For example it seems quite possible that we could find nearby planets and get some information about their atmospheres.
- We don't necessarily need to save any human individuals, but rather provide for the long-term continuation of the human race.
- You can make any assumptions you like about the question or about the historical / technological developments from 1980 - 2030, but more realistic is better. This question is mostly just for fun. If you'd like, after considering the 2030 deadline, feel free to consider what could happen with different deadlines.
- We don't necessarily need to leave the solar system if there's a way we could survive without leaving. But leaving is preferred.
Instead of the particles in our solar system decaying they all just go poof as if they had never existed.