The search for another planet that could support life might just be reachable, sort of. Scientists have discovered seven earth-like exoplanets orbiting around an ultracool dwarf star called Trappist-1. This is groundbreaking because some of these planets could host liquid which means it could also potentially be habitable.
Earth-like Exoplanets Discovery
Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Southern Observatory discovered an entire system of Earth-sized exoplanets. All of them orbit around a small, orange star Trappist-1.
It is barely bigger than Jupiter and it burns up to 6,500 times cooler than the sun. Another similarity of the Trappist-1 to the giant planet is all the planets are close to the star just like the Jupiter’s system of moons, according to Michaël Gillon from the Université de Liège who is one of the research’s lead author.
The alien planets are found to have almost the same size as that of Earth while six of them also have our planet’s density measurements. However, the graphic shown above does not represent what the exoplanets really look like as scientists could only learn the look of faraway planets through analysis of their atmospheres.
Meanwhile, the presence of water means the existence of the possibility of life. Three planets are found in the “Goldilocks Zone” of the system which is the region around the star where water can exist theoretically.
The planets pull on each other, with their close proximity, as they pass by which creates warming tidal forces. The same principle applies with the underground ocean of Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa as a result of the heating of tidal forces.
How to Reach the Planetary System of Trappist-1
So, what are we waiting for? This system, on a cosmic scale, is really close like it is only right next door. The distance is only 40 light years away. But of course, in our perspective and with the technology we have today, it would take us dramatically longer to reach the earth-like exoplanets’ system.
In fact, it took 10 years for New Horizons to reach Pluto which is only two light hours away. It would take over 180 years for us to reach this planetary system even with the laser-propelled microsats currently being developed.
However, the technology is quickly advancing nowadays. Aside from looking for ways to reach the outskirts of space faster, telescopes that can search other planet’s atmospheres are being innovated as well.
Gillon says they can use the light of Trappist-1 to observe the atmosphere of the Earth-like exoplanets. With the new set of telescope system called SPECULOOS, the scientists can squint into the skies to look for telltale signs of molecules like carbon dioxide and ozone for a harbinger of life potentials in Trappist-1.