New UCSD Research Suggests Life on Other Planets

13 Août, 2017, 09:39 | Author: Come Portier
  • TRAPPIST-1 twice as old as our solar system

The sun was born 4.5 billion years ago.

The system's seniority means the planets have had plenty of time to potentially evolve life, but it also means said life would have had to survive a diverse array of disruptions. However, the planets orbit closer to the sun than our planets and some might even have water.

In February 2017, American space agency NASA made a ground-breaking revelation and announced the discovery of seven Earth-like exoplanets orbiting - TRAPPIST-1 - a star in a galaxy lying 40 light-years away from Earth.

"We think it's about 7 and a half to 9 billion years old", said Burgasser.

While they may have honed in on its age, the scientists haven't yet figured out what this means for its potential to support life.

Much has been said about the "ultra-cool dwarf star" that is hosting the planetary system, but the noise around it had sort of faded - until now. Follow-up observations from the Kepler astronomical instrument allowed researchers to figure out how the planets maintain their orbits so close to the stars.

The researchers point to Mars as a similar example, in our own solar system, that has experienced this type of stripping.

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The Trappist-1 planets have lower densities than Earth, and large reservoirs of volatile molecules such as water could create a thick atmosphere, which would protect the surface from radiation, NASA explains.

"If there is life on these planets, I would speculate that it has to be hardy life, because it has to be able to survive some potentially dire scenarios for billions of years", Adam Burgasser, an astronomer at the University of California, San Diego said in a statement. This could be a benchmark in exploring possibility of life outside earth as the age of its star plays pivotal role in supporting habitability. Because they're so close, it's possible that the equivalent of an ocean has evaporated from each TRAPPIST-1 planet, except for the two farthest from the star. Three of the seven planets are located within the star's habitable zone.

While this may be a promising factor in the search for life, it isn't the only thing that must be considered, the researchers explain.

'This would hurt the chances of life forming or persisting'.

Seven near Earth objects were found near Trappist-1. Burgasser worked with Eric Mamajek, deputy program scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, to calculate TRAPPIST-1's age.

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star, not a yellow dwarf star like the Sun.

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