As human beings, we’ve always had this innate obsession with other worlds or aliens. Our imagination has run so far amok that we even created magical movie marvels surrounding extraterrestrial worlds and beings, a good example is StarWars, but with NASA’s latest discovery our imagination could quite possibly be true.
Astronomers have been discovering exoplanets one after the other thanks to the great milestones in space technology. This sequence of discoveries has now deeply rooted the notion that life must exist outside our planet.
NASA has discovered more than 2,000 exoplanets to date some of which could be home to extraterrestrial life but little is known about them. However, a few of them stand out from the rest and seem promising enough to support life. The five that are nearest the habitable zone of their host star are
Wolf 1016c—a rocky planet that has 4.3 times the mass of earth orbiting a red dwarf star,
Gliese 832c—an extrasolar planet approximately 16 light years away with a mass 5.2 times that of earth, Gliese 667Cc—a super-earth located approximately 23.62 light years away within the Scorpius constellation,
Gliese 163c—an exoplanet with 7.2 times the mass of earth and located approximately 49-light years away in the Dorado constellation,
and TRAPPIST-1d—a likely rocky exoplanet approximately 40 light years away and orbits an ultracool dwarf star.
Today will go down in history as the day NASA discovered a solar system with a multitude of planets similar in size to earth. Astonishingly, not one or two but three of these planets are firmly within the habitable zone of their host star. This means the likelihood that they have liquid water and could support life is very high.
According to NASA’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread, this discovery has set a new record of the largest number of planets in a habitable zone around an individual star outside the Milky Way.
Seeing that with our current technological level it would be impossible to take us to the new planetary system we can only use remotely assess the planets from a distance using space-based telescopes. However, there are efforts being made by the BreakthroughInitiativeorganization—where theacclaimed theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking and founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg are on the board.
Since NASA doesn’t know the exact mass and radius of the planets they can only speculate the gravity in those planets. However, their best guess is that it’s similar to that of earth with the exception of planet f which is likely to have 68pc less gravity because its mass is 68pc less than that of Earth.
NASA has acknowledged that they presently don’t have any life-signs discovery protocol but stated that they would have to investigate and confirm before making any announcements. However, Dr. Duncan Forgan’s article does provide a lot of insight on the numerous scenarios in this day and age of technological advancement.
Presently, there is no technology that would allow for astronomers to see any surface vegetation or features and will require even more advanced telescopes than the James Webb Space Telescope which is set to be launched in 2018. However, results of the first observations of the planets are underway and will be shared once they are passed through a scientific peer review.
This is undoubtedly the greatest discovery yet and does raise the question whether we are we truly alone in this universe.