Breakthrough In Search For Life As Seven Earth-Sized Worlds Found Orbiting Nearby Star

Artist's impression of TRAPPIST-1f. NASA/JPL-Caltech

“I am personally convinced that if there is biological activity on a scale similar to what see on Earth, then we should get to know that fairly soon,” co-author Amaury Triaud from the University of Cambridge told IFLScience, adding that within a decade “sounds reasonable.”

It’s highly likely that all seven planets are tidally locked to the star, meaning the same face always points towards it. This means that, if water does exist on some of the worlds, it may be liquid on just the star-facing side, with the other being ice.

All seven of the planets are also thought to have migrated from further out in the system to their inner positions, where ice on their surfaces has melted.

If there is life on any of the worlds, conditions likely wouldn’t be that similar to here. For one thing, the star itself would appear salmon-like in color, according to the researchers, with most of the solar radiation being infrared – which would still warm the planets, but would not be visible to creatures like us.

“The amount of light in your eye would be about 200 times less than the Sun,” Triaud said in the press briefing. “So think of the amount of light you receive at the end of sunset. It’s still much brighter than the Moon, but dimmer than the Sun.

“The spectacle would be beautiful, because every now and then you would see another planet about twice the size of the Moon in the sky.”

This amount of infrared light makes the planets an especially good target for upcoming telescopes like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due to launch in October 2018, which will observe the cosmos in infrared wavelengths. It could work out their atmospheric compositions by looking at the star’s light passing through, and hunt for signs of life.

The seven planets may have migrated further into the system. NASA/JPL-Caltech

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