Are current politics getting you down? Worried that the world is heading in the wrong direction? Worry not –habitable, pristine, Trumpless, planets are coming soon to galaxies near you (perhaps). Indeed, a newly-discovered solar system just 39 light years from Earth contains planets that are possibly warm enough to sustain water and life.
These have been found around a small star in the constellation of Aquarius, Trappist-1, presenting the first time in history that so many Earth-sized planets have been found in orbit around the same star. This star has the characteristic of being small and cold, hence allowing the seven closely-packed planets that orbit around it to have remarkably moderate temperatures. Their sizes vary from 25% smaller to 10% larger than the Earth.
This discovery, completely unexpected, has thrilled many, as it has raised hopes that the hunt for alien life beyond the solar system could start much sooner than anticipated. Ignas Snellen, an astrophysicist at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands said “This is really something new. When they started this search several years ago, I really thought it was a waste of time. I was very, very wrong”.
Astronomers are now focusing on using current space technology, including the Hubble and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to determine whether the planets have atmospheres and they hope to know whether there is life on the planets within the next decade, when the next generation of telescopes will be fully developed. Exciting times in the astronomical world.