TechAre we not alone in space? Scientists are close to a breakthrough

Are we not alone in space? Scientists are close to a breakthrough

Artistic vision of the TRAPPIST-1 system and the planet TRAPPIST-1b in the foreground.
Artistic vision of the TRAPPIST-1 system and the planet TRAPPIST-1b in the foreground.
Images source: © Université de Montréal | Benoît Gougeon

6:03 AM EDT, October 12, 2023

At a distance of 241 trillion miles from Earth, scientists have identified the TRAPPIST-1 system. The planets found there may have conditions indicating that the area is potentially habitable.

Thanks to the use of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers have been able to take a closer look at the TRAPPIST-1 system. At its center is a cold star around which seven planets orbit. The area around the red dwarf is a place with conditions theoretically enabling the origin and maintenance of life—according to a study published in "The Astrophysical Journal Letters". Today, scientists report that their latest discoveries will allow for even more detailed analysis of the activity of the ecosphere, or the area around the star.

TRAPPIST-1 and possible extraterrestrial life

In a place that can be defined as a potentially habitable zone, it is possible to maintain water in a liquid state. In practice, this means that the temperatures in an area nearly 235 trillion miles from Earth are not high enough for water to evaporate, but also aren't low enough for it to constantly be frozen.

However, these are not the only conditions that planets must meet in order to say with 100 percent certainty that life can be sustained on them and, above all, there is a probability of its origin. Scientists have also noticed strong flashes that occur several times a day.

Observing this type of star behavior is challenging for astronomers - even taking into account the presence of JWST in research. However, scientists have managed to distinguish the light originating from flashes against the glow emitted by the object. As a result, they could examine the planets orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 system with greater precision.

As a result, scientists were able to identify not only the composition of the observed objects, but also the atmosphere. The observation of a stellar flare at specific lengths of infrared light by the James Webb Space Telescope can be considered a success for astronomers, and at the same time, they were able to observe the evolution of flares.

Research on the system around TRAPPIST-1 will continue due to the aforementioned conditions in the ecosphere. The latest reports indicate that one of the planets in the system, TRAPPIST-1b, could be devoid of atmosphere. Currently, it is known that life could theoretically exist in the mentioned system. However, further work and observation of the area are still needed.

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