Thursday, February 23, 2017

Home on a New Planet


Home on a New Planet

There's always been a question about life on other planets. Do aliens exist? Could they ever contact us? If so, why haven't they already? Nowadays, a new sort of question is being asked. What we want to know is whether human beings will ever be able to live on planets other than Earth. Back in 2015, BBC reported that NASA had plans to start sending people to live on Mars by as early as 2030. This would be extremely complicated though, since Mars' current environment is incredibly harsh and hostile to life. Just this week, however, new reports have started to emerge about a far away star that has seven Earth-sized planets orbiting around it. As you could probably imagine, this has triggered a question frenzy about whether these planets could be the ones we've been looking for all along. 


In articles published both by the Guardian and by BBC, Trappist-1, roughly the size of Jupiter, has been described as a low-mass, relatively cooler star that has seven planets orbiting around it. Of these seven, only three are considered to be potentially habitable, while the rest are sadly not. Even though these planets are very close to the star, the star shines much less brightly than our sun, so it is still possible that liquid water may be found on its surface. The rule to remember: where there's water, chances are there's life too. 

So what now? Well, according to astronomers, the next thing to look for is an atmosphere. More specifically, they are looking for important gases like oxygen and methane, since these usually tell us something about what's happening down on the planet's surface. It would still be a bit too early to infer the existence of biological life, but these clues could lead scientists in particular directions and assist them in studying these planets further and further until they finally arrive at the answers they seek.

Finally, the issue about life on other planets will always be a controversial one, but it will also always be one that scientists must passionately pursue in order to gain a better understanding of not only how biology works, but of how our universe in its entirety has functioned and will continue to function for years to come. Finding a new home out there, one other than Earth, is a challenge, but it isn't one that's beyond our capabilities as scientists and innovators. One day, maybe in the next 20 years, maybe in the next 200, or maybe in the next 2000 if you live that long, don't be surprised to wake up, turn on your TV, and watch footage of the first colony being set up in a galaxy far, far away.

Posted by Peter Makhoul (3)

Sources of main articles:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/22/thrilling-discovery-of-seven-earth-sized-planets-discovered-orbiting-trappist-1-star

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39034050

Additional source:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/34528622


           




7 comments:

  1. The discovery of the possibility of life on a new planet is truly amazing. Personally, I never thought I would see a discovery like this in my lifetime. While it is exciting, it is also a bit worrisome. It is a far off idea, but the idea of humans colonizing a new planet is absolutely mind boggling. I would hope that we as humans wouldn't need to relocate planets, but at the rate of climate change today, it might need to be a possibility.

    Posted by Taylor Irwin

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    1. Yeah I completely agree that the potential of life on other planets is both extremely interesting but also a bit scary. I think that as time goes on, if we don't find solutions to the problems we are causing here on our own planet, then we might have to eventually find a new home somewhere else. Hopefully we won't do so out of necessity, but who knows what could happen.

      Posted by Peter Makhoul

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  2. I always thought it was odd, that as humans, we don't really think there is life on other planets. I feel like that is an extremely egocentric view and it is probable that somewhere in the universe there lies other life forms, whether they are as complex as us, who knows, but I certainly believe other life exists elsewhere. I think it is really interesting that there is the possibility of another planet that we could inhabit. I agree with Taylor, that it is a little sad to think we could need a new planet.

    Posted by Jenna Lansbury

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    1. I've always believed that there has to be life on another planet somewhere. The universe is massive, and we're nothing but a little spec of dust in it. To think that we live in the only "special" place where life could exist is extremely hard for me to accept. I've always found the thought funny that somewhere else another group of "aliens" might be having the same conversation we are right now.

      Posted by Peter Makhoul

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  3. You really can not help but get excited by this kind of finding. It is interesting to see how much information can be gather about something that is so far way. I would be interested in finding out how they gather this data. From the limited knowledge I have on the subject, it mostly consists of reading the light diffraction patterns and, essentially translating shadows. This is an interesting and exciting subject to discuss, especially now that the technology is beginning to be able to keep up with our ambition.

    Posted by Logan Lassin (A)

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    1. Yeah you're right, they rely so much on light, its bending, and its diffraction to make these readings. The interesting thing about this system in particular is that it's "only" 40 light years away, which means that theoretically we should be able to send some technology there and get actual readings of the planets from their surfaces. Plus, a lot of money is put into space research (but still not as much as I personally would want to see), and maybe as we get more and more technologically gifted we'd be able to make readings much faster and in much more detail.

      Posted by Peter Makhoul

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