If We Can’t Be Martians, We’ll Be Trappists

Mars: the only other planet in our solar system currently considered as a future home for humans. That’s the appeal, right? The possibility of one day growing crops, creating artificially-oxygenated habitats, and accessing water will one day be achieved. But a recent scientific discovery has astronomers considering if our future home on Mars could be possible somewhere else (though we can still send Matt Damon and all his botanist glory until we’re certain).

            The Trappist-1 exoplanets were named after the telescope that first discovered them, consisting of seven planets in total including three that have been marked as potentially inhabitable. Unlike our sun, which is classified as a yellow dwarf star, the sun of this planetary system is considerably cooler as a red dwarf star. This allows the Trappist-1 planets to be much closer to their sun without burning up or being considered completely uninhabitable.

            To quote a piece of wisdom from Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is”. And that’s putting it lightly. So just how far away is this solar system in the wide realm of space? Thirty-nine lightyears. To give you a better idea of how that distance measures, earth is roughly eight and one third light minutes from the sun. In other words, we have not yet created the sort of vessels that can travel such distances, especially not with human beings on board as the cargo.

            Some fun facts for you: the system is located in the constellation of Aquarius, a poet named Sean Raymond was inspired by the discovery to write “An Ode to 7 Orbs”, and astronomers are hoping to get better observations once the James Webb telescope (Hubble’s replacement) is launched.

            Since the initial discovery, some doubts have arisen about the planet’s inhabitability, primarily related to climate concerns. Fingers crossed that Trappist-1 could be the next step of going “to infinity and beyond”.