Scientists have made a discovery which raises the likelihood of finding alien life on one of the planets orbiting a distant star called TRAPPIST-1.
It’s been claimed that some of the seven Earth-sized worlds in this star system may have been able to hold onto an atmosphere for more than one billion years at a time – a crucial factor in the development of life
A team of scientists from universities including Harvard and Princeton have just published a paper discussing the ‘implications for habitability’ which came from an analysis of the atmospheres of these planets.
TRAPPIST-1 is an ‘ultracool dwarf star’ that’s 39.6 light-years from Earth and older than our own.
If one of its planets has an atmosphere, that could mean it’s home to life.
‘The presence of an atmosphere over sufficiently long timescales is widely perceived as one of the most prominent criteria associated with planetary surface habitability,’ the academics wrote.
‘We conclude that the outer planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system are capable of retaining their atmospheres over billion-year timescales.’
Planets often lose their atmospheres when they are bombarded with radioactive ‘solar wind’ by their parent star.
It’s believed this is why Mars lost its water to become the dry, barren world we know today.
But the new research suggests that some of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system may have enough protection from the solar wind to maintain an atmosphere.
The star system is particularly interesting because it’s believed life could spread between some of its planets by floating through the void of space on comets or asteroids, a process known as panspermia.
Could this mean aliens are living on one of the seven exoplanets orbiting the star?
Perhaps. It’s believed life on Earth has been around for at least 3.8 billion years and it’s not known whether the evolution of intelligent life on our planet has been quick or slow.
The new research suggests the planets of TRAPPIST-1 are capable of keeping an atmosphere for at least one billion years – but we simply don’t know if this is long enough for life to evolve.
We also have no immediate way of carrying out tests which would prove whether life exists on the distant worlds or not, so that new research is just the start of a long process to discover whether aliens life on the planets of TRAPPIST-1.
‘In light of the many unknowns and assumptions involved, we recommend that these conclusions must be interpreted with due caution,’ the team added.
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