TRAPPIST-1 may be home to at least two planets which could hold on to their atmospheres against the solar wind emanating from the ultra-cool red star. If this is proven by further research, this finding could greatly increase the chance that alien life may have formed in this alien solar system.
An atmosphere is widely regarded among astronomers and biologists as a necessary condition for the formation and survival of life on other worlds.
“The search for exoplanets has rapidly emerged as one of the most important endeavors in astronomy. This field received a major impetus with the recent discovery of seven temperate Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. One of the most crucial requirements for conventional (surface-based) planetary habitability is the presence of an atmosphere over long timescales,” researchers wrote in The Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS).
The TRAPPIST-1 system is roughly 40 light-years from Earth, seen in the constellation of Aquarius. Astronomers have discovered seven planets, most roughly the same size as Earth, orbiting this alien star. Of these, three reside within the habitable zone, where a planet is neither too close, nor too far, from its parent star for liquid water to exist on their surface.
“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star. It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds,” said Michael Gillon principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey.
This new study suggests life may be more likely in the TRAPPIST-1 system than we believed, but astronomers are still far from finding conclusive evidence of alien lifeforms in that, or any other, planetary system.