By: Charlie P.
Are there aliens beyond the Earth? Does life exist on planets other than Earth? I am pretty sure many people have asked these questions at least once in their lifetime. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) recently made a discovery that could potentially help us answer those questions. NASA has announced that they had found seven Earth-like planets revolving around a star called TRAPPIST-1.
One significant fact about this discovery is that it was the first time where astronomers found so many Earth-like planets orbiting one star. All of the 7 planets were rocky planets meaning that they were made up of rocks or metals with a hard surface like the 4 inner planets of our solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars). Also, the sizes of these planets were found to be nearly identical to those of Earth.
This discovery is mostly significant because it was discovered that 3 of the 7 planets were habitable and there could be possibilities of life in those particular planets. The sign of life is evident because the 3 planets have extremely similar characteristics with Earth: they are placed in a habitable zone called the “Goldilocks Zone” where it is not too cold nor too hot, their sizes are very similar to the Earth, and they receive almost the same amount of sunlight as we do. Even though there are other factors influencing the formation of life, having some of the conditions common with those on Earth could mean that there are possibilities of life on those planets.
Although the discovery of the planets is astonishing, there are also limitations from it. One limitation is that it would take 39 light years to reach the system containing the 7 Earth-like planets. One light year refers to the distance light travels in one year, so try to imagine 39 light years! It is surely a great distance since it would take 39 years to reach the system even by the speed of light. Also, from our current technology, the maximum speed is not even close to the speed of light, therefore it would be nearly impossible to get to the planets in our lifetime. One other limitation is that even if we do reach the planets, we might not find life on them, despite the high probability. We can never assure anything in the universe since we do not know most of it.
Through NASA’s discovery of the 7 Earth-like planets, the human science might have just taken a big leap into answering the question of ‘are there living organisms beyond the Earth?’ However, there are still many uncertainties from the discovery since we cannot get there right away. If science and technology improves in the future to the level that it will let us travel with the speed of light or faster, then astronomers might be able to give us a better answer.