Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sun Bright and the Seven Planets

A solar system with seven planets, all remarkably like Earth, has been found, anchored by a small star known as TRAPPIST-1, forty light years away.  The seven planets revolve around this small sun rather quickly - the nearest planet takes a couple of days to go around TRAPPIST-1 while the farthest one takes about three weeks -  and at least three of them are in a zone where temperatures and atmospheres are just perfect enough to have water.  
Needless to say, this is all very fascinating.  Inevitably, of course, scientists are wondering if there is any form of life on an of these planets,  possibly intelligent life. Some observers may have even envisioned the prospect of colonizing these other worlds.  Neither prospect is going to pan out, though. Why?  Perhaps you weren't paying attention - it's forty light years away!  It would take a over 440 million years to get to any of these planets, and even if any intelligent life out that far were dumb enough to contact us, the radio reception would be pretty terrible.
Don't get me wrong.  I think this is exciting news.  I hope we learn more about these planets.  I hope that any future pictures we might get back from observing the TRAPPIST-1 system expand our knowledge of the universe and inspire us to learn even more about it.  But we're not going to establish contact with aliens, and we're certainly not going to colonize other worlds.  Someday we may send astronauts into space under induced hibernation, and they may find life on a planet they don't recognize, but they may not like what they find. 
See what I mean?
We only have one planet of our own.  We'd best take care of it.

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