NASA had a big announcement today, and it has some planetary sized significance. Quite literally there are seven planets that have been discovered orbiting a red dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Six of the innermost planets are Earth-like rocky worlds. But that’s not even the craziest part: three of them are in the habitable range of the sun. What exactly does it mean to be in the habitable range?
As far as most people are aware, life doesn’t seem very possible in places where there is no water. In layman’s terms, a habitable zone is a distance from a star in which water wouldn’t get instantaneously vaporized by being too close to the fireball. The other four planets aren’t as hospitable as those in the perfect range, but that doesn’t mean water is a total impossibility. So cross your fingers for alien life to exist on as many of them as possible.
For a time that seems to deal in insane cosmic revelations regularly, one might ask what makes this development so special. Michael Gillon expresses that this is the largest number of worlds that have the possibility for liquid water, and is actually close in size to our own planet Earth.
TRAPPIST-1 isn’t as strong as our sun, but it appears the planets still are close enough relative to its heat to possess liquid water. As for the distance of our neighbors, it is 40 light years away. By space people standards, that is super close. Yet by regular people standards, you are still looking at a multi-million year roundtrip with conventional technology. Can someone get Matthew McConaughey from Interstellar on this?
Research is definitely going to continue, with both the Hubble Space Telescope and from telescopes in Europe. Emmanuël Jehin, a scientist on the research, is confident in the possibilities of future telescopes.
“With the upcoming generation of telescopes, such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, we will soon be able to search for water and perhaps even evidence of life on these worlds.”
Buckle up everybody. “They” could be here any day now.