By Lena Gluck
The concept of outer space is truly out of this world. It ranges in size from universes to galaxies, solar systems to stars, and even planets, moons and asteroids. New theories about space are always appearing, but one question continues to resurface: are there other places that can possibly support life forms?
The search for other life has been an ongoing process since the 19th century. The planet Mars has been particularly interesting to study because of its similarity to Earth, which was noticed a while back.
Recently, through the use of network telescopes, NASA has discovered seven planets similar to Earth’s size. The planets are known as the Trappist-1 system, and these planets orbit a small nearby star. The Trappist-1 system is approximately 40 light years away from Earth. The newly discovered planets are known as exoplanets. More specifically, they are planets that orbit a star other than our sun. Experts believe that potentially three out of the seven planets may even have oceans, which would mean life forms could possibly live here.
According to Michael Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium, “This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star.” The Trappist-1 system is truly an incredible find as it is extremely beneficial to further expanding our scientific knowledge in such an enormous area. Although it may appear that we hold extensive knowledge of places such as outer space and the ocean, in reality we have barely even begun to explore the creatures and potential life forms living out there.
Exoplanets were first discovered in the year 1995 by two Swiss astronomers, Didier Queloz and Michael Mayor. NASA released that there are approximately 3,500 confirmed exoplanets in the universe. Michael Mayer is a Swiss astronomer and professor at the University of Geneva’s Department of Astronomy. Mr. Mayor retired in 2007, yet he is still a researcher at the Geneva observatory. His co-finder was an astronomer named Didier Queloz who was a PhD student enrolled at the University of Geneva when he and his doctoral advisor, Michael Mayer, discovered the first exoplanet; it was found circling a main sequence star. The discovery made by Queloz and Mayor drastically changed the way in which we view the solar system because the exoplanet was the first giant planet to be found outside of our solar system.
More recently, we have heard of the idea of possibly sending people to Mars. Years ago, if someone even had mentioned the thought of traveling to mars, people would have said that idea was unrealistic. The idea of living on Mars came about because of the realization Mars is extremely similar to Earth in both location and characteristics. It is believed that at one point, Mars even had liquid water and quite possibly was even habitable for microorganisms. Although this sounds great in theory, just because Mars might contain habitable conditions, does not mean it is able to support a living object. On November 22nd 2016, NASA reported that they had found underground ice in a region of Mars. Over the course of many years, NASA has devoted enormous efforts into figuring out if Mars has water and if it can truly support a life.
The Trappist-1 discovery proves that there is the possibility of other life forms and there is much more still to be discovered and studied in regard to outer space. Hopefully in the near future, our researchers are successful in further exploring the enormous world of outer space and locating other planets capable of supporting life.