The seven Earth-like planets: A fascinating and scary discovery

 

The discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star is a major landmark in the search for extraterrestrial life. There is a likelihood that the planets have water, a key element for life.

If the readings that the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed are correctly interpreted, these planets are rocky and could be potentially habitable. “Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water,” reports NASA.

It will take a while to address a fundamental question. Is life a necessary consequence of a certain combination of factors? Or is life unique to our planet in the universe? In other words, would a confluence of water, air, and light—in whatever the right measures are—always result in life, or not? The implications for tenets of science are immense.

Still, life there would be nothing like the one we have on Earth. These planets do not rotate, so it is permanently daylight on one side and eternal night on the other one. Strong winds blow from the starlit hemisphere into the dark half. These planets are so close to each other that on clear days—if there is such thing up there—an observer could make out clouds or topographical features on the other planets with the naked eye. As the system spins around an ultra-cool, dwarf star—TRAPPIST-1—life is most likely on the planet nearest to it, which orbits at a much smaller distance than Mercury from the sun.

All in all, these sights warrant a Star Trek expedition to the seven sisters our lonely planet found some 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) away. For the time being, the TRAPPIST-1 system is safely outside the reach of human transportation. Even if it only became an interplanetary tourism destination, it would be a matter of time before hordes of visitors spoiled this corner of the universe with trash, rude behavior and idiotic selfie shots. More seriously, we can only hope that by the time vehicles are devised to reach the seven planets our species will be as civilized as Captain Kirk, Spock and their crew.

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