These Earth-like Trappist-1 Planets Are the Best Candidates for Alien Life Ever Found
Despite being 39 light-years away from out solar system, Trappist-1 may be our best shot at finding habitable exoplanets—and alien life.
The system is centered on an ancient, cool red dwarf star, and has seven planets, which are similar in size to our own Earth. Just like our solar system, some of those planets are probably balls of ice and some are scorched hellscapes, but two planets—imaginatively named "d" and "e"—may not only be relatively stable temperature-wise, at least one of them may have an ocean of liquid water.
In a new study submitted to Astronomy and Astrophysics, researchers Amy C. Barr, Vera Dobos, and László L. Kiss lay out what they've discovered about each of the Trappist-1 exoplanets:
"With the exception of TRAPPIST-1c, all seven of the planets have densities low enough to indicate the presence of significant H2O in some form. Planets b and c experience enough heating from planetary tides to maintain magma oceans in their rock mantles; planet c may have eruptions of silicate magma on its surface, which may be detectable with next-generation instrumentation. Tidal heat fluxes on planets d, e, and f are lower, but are still 20 times higher than Earth's mean heat flow. Planets d and e are the most likely to be habitable."
This new information comes from models the team has made of tidal heat generation on each planet, meaning that the assessments above are just estimations for now—until that "next-generation instrumentation" comes along, we may not be able to confirm what each of the exoplanets actually looks like. Still, it's encouraging that early modeling has already pointed to the Trappist-1 system being a haven for life.
With plans to colonize Mars on the horizon (and maybe Venus and Jupiter's moons, if you believe Mars One), Trappist-1 colonization may have to wait until we find a way to cover 229 trillion miles in a span of time that doesn't result in astronauts dying of old age. In the meantime, maybe we'll catch a glimpse of alien life on planet "e."