OK so the announcement from NASA wasn’t Aliens, but it was still pretty damn exciting – especially for anyone who writes science fiction or is a fan of sci-fi, or just freakin’ loves space. Seven planets, roughly the size of Earth, have been found orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a red dwarf star about the size of Jupiter. Previously there were thought to be only three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Compared to the little blue marble we call home, TRAPPIST-1 is still pretty big, but it’s really only 8% of our own Sun’s mass. The faint light it emits leaves its planet family in perpetual twilight, so one would imagine that any life on the planet would need to have evolved to live within these dusk-like conditions under an orangey-red sky. Kind of like Jerry Seinfeld had to do when Kenny Rogers Roasters opened up and he moved into Kramer’s apartment. OK, well maybe that’s a bit over the top, but it could happen! ‘Is anyone there … Mr Marbles?’ you might very well be asking yourself as you hear scuttling things whisking around your ankles in the near-dark. Of course the indigenous people of the planet would have no trouble seeing you (or avoiding the scuttling lobster-like creatures snapping at your ankles) having evolved to thrive in such conditions.
Now I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but just the idea that there could be life on any of these planet’s at all is fantastic! Three of these planets even rotate around their mother-star within the habitable zone. The habitable zone is an area surrounding a star where the conditions are considered to be just right for liquid water, and so possibly life to exist. While the star itself is described as ultra-cool, it still emits heat and so you wouldn’t be freezing your ass off either.
The big question though, is when can we go holiday on one of these fresh-minted as yet-to-get-a-cool-name marbles? Well not anytime soon unfortunately as they lie 40 light-years away, and our technology isn’t quite there yet - but one day we humans may be able to break the long-distance space barrier. Then if you find yourself with a spare weekend you could be saying ‘Hell, why don’t we visit TRAPPIST-1 d? I’ve always wanted to go’ and then in no time you’d be packing a bag to take mini-break at some swanky alien space-hotel on this assumed rocky world.
Even if short getaways aren’t your style, and life isn’t found on one of these planets, that we could still explore them on the ground, and perhaps build our own cities there, is very cool. I would however be adding the caveat that perhaps first we should learn from the things we’ve done wrong to this planet. There’s no point going somewhere else just to frig that up too, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Perchance, if we could just be a little more civilised this time, then we won’t embarrass ourselves in front of the Aliens too much. And yes, it’s always going to come back to Aliens. *whispers* Aliens.