Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a priority for many science fields, and that time is not that far away when we will celebrate that we are not alone in this dark and immense universe.
The TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) in Chile, has discovered 7 earth-like exoplanets at the distance of 39.5 light years (235 trillion miles) from earth, these planets are located outside of our solar system, therefore they are called exoplanets. This great discovery was achieved by TRAPPIST-1. According to NASA, all of the 7 exoplanets are revolving around an ultra-cool dwarf star, whose mass is 12 times lesser than our sun. NASA has confirmed this TRAPPIST-1 discovery with the help of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer is an infrared telescope and trails the Earth as it orbits the sun, and was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because stars glow brightest in infrared light.
Using the data Spitzer has sent to us, scientists precisely measured the size of all the exoplanets and made their first guess about the masses of six of them. The mass of the seventh and outermost planet hasn’t been estimated yet but scientists deduce that it will be a “snowball-like” planet. According to Spitzer’s data about the density of these exoplanets, all the planets are possibly rocky. All the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their parent star than Mercury orbit around our sun. These planets are really very close to each other. If a person is standing on the surface of one of these planets, they can easily see the other planet passing by, and sometimes this appears larger than the appearance of the moon in Earth’s sky. Three of those planets are in the habitable Zone or we can say in the “Life Zone” and chances are really high that the atmospheric conditions will be same as on Earth. There may be even liquid water on the planets orbiting very close to the star, but this is a huge maybe.
According to the scientists, the planets are locked to their parent star, which means that the same side of the planet will always face the star and there won’t be any change in the day and night state. Weather conditions will be totally different than the ones on Earth. Such as strong winds blowing on the “day side” towards night side and extreme temperature changes.
Future and Consequences
Space and time have always been a matter of attention for man, whether it was Newton’s classical physics age or Einstein’s modern physics era. The distance of these planets from the Earth is 39.5 light years which requires a spaceship or rocket which can travel at the speed of light and even then we could only think about reaching these planets in approximately 40 years.
So, what is the problem? The problem is how to achieve the speed of light? Mankind has been building faster rockets but still, the speed of light seems so far away from its reach. It’s true that NASA’s research is opening new doors towards research and progress, but they are really not providing us with the solution, yet. If we’d travel using the fastest rocket speed man has achieved, it would take nearly 11,250 years to reach the TRAPPIST-1 system. So, consequently, it is good discovery but we must not have too high expectations because maybe it will take a long time before we can even dream about going to TRAPPIST-1.