Jack Bonner has been obsessed with space and space travel since he was a little boy. He used to draw comics about a fictional planet within the Milky Way that was colonized by humans in the year 2119. Today, Jack Bonner writes about the newly-discovered TRAPPIST-1 exoplanet system, and how the planets there could be a destination for human explorers in the future.
It has been firmly established that Earth is not the only planet of its kind in the universe. However, it was previously thought that Earth-like planets are few and far between, with the closest being hundreds to thousands of light-years away. With the discovery of TRAPPIST-1’s planetary system, it now appears that Earth might have similar cousins much closer to home.
NASA had long known that TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star just 39 light-years from Earth, had planets orbiting it. Last February, though, they announced that the star actually had seven planets, and that some of these planets are similar to Earth, both in terms of size and amount of energy received from their sun.
What are the implications of this discovery? This could mean that the planets are able to hold liquid water without it evaporating away. With water on the surface, it’s not far-fetched to think that life could develop on those planets, if it hasn’t started developing yet.
Another implication is the possibility of human exploration and colonization. While 40 light-years are equivalent to almost 1.5 million years’ worth of space-shuttle travel, it’s possible that humans will develop a much faster mode of space travel in the distant future, just in time for them to witness the evolution of life as it starts. TRAPPIST-1 could also be a hospitable destination for human explorers seeking to escape the inevitable death of the sun, which, fortunately, won’t happen until more than five billion years from now.
For more news and updates about space exploration, visit the Jack Bonner at A2W Space Blog.