NASA has recently released their latest findings regarding the possibility of the existence of alien life within Milky Way galaxy that has both astronomers and space enthusiasts buzzing with excitement.

According to NASA, the constellation of Aquarius is possibly the home to a huddle of seven earth-like planets circling around a faint star carrying a very real possibility that some of these planets may sustain life in some form.

This poster imagines what a trip to TRAPPIST-1e might be like.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers, both professional and amateur, are now eyeing on the launch of the next generation telescopes that are due to be functional within the next decade. These uber-power telescopes are sensitive enough to sniff the many indicators that could provide more concrete evidence towards the existence of alien life on these planets. However, the possibility of a palpable encounter with alien life-forms has effectively been preponed with the latest discovery in Aquarius constellation.

This is not the first time that astronomers at NASA have announced the existence of an exoplanet within the unfathomable stretches of space. However, this discovery is unique in the sense that it is the first time that a whole group of such earth-like planets has been spotted in earth’s backyard; earth’s backyard, in this case, means 39 light-years away.

This discovery opens the doors to a new era of possibilities, of Milky way practically teeming with worlds that in firmness and size resemble our earth and may sustain extra-terrestrial life.

The solar system in question has a dwarf star at the very centre of it, named TRAPPIST-1. A dwarf star is, in fact, a relatively smaller star as is obvious from its name, hence with a lower mass and much less luminosity than other stars such as our own Sun.

TRAPPIST-1 is some 39 light-years away from us and all the indications so far firmly suggest the possibility of life, since the planets circling TRAPPIST-1 are orbiting at an ideal distance from the central star. The Dwarf nature of TRAPPIST-1 is perhaps the major factor behind the suggestion of life on its planets; merely because the small size and much less energy of the star mean that these planets are quite temperate, which raises the bar of probability for the existence of liquid water and maybe even alien life.

TRAPPIST-1 is estimated to be some 2,000 times fainter than the sun and is marginally larger than Jupiter.

The next challenge facing the astronomers worldwide is the probing into the nature of atmospheres that these planets contain. The mere presence of an effective and functional atmosphere could alone contribute a great deal towards the existence of other life-sustaining factors. The Hubble telescope is quite efficient in detecting the traces of methane released from planets with an atmosphere, and could also predict the presence of water on planets. However, both methane and water can be produced without the presence of even the most primitive life-forms, so the Hubble may not prove to be highly effective in this case.

However, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is quite capable of locating some of the most complex molecular signatures coming from the exoplanets; James Webb Space Telescope is projected to be launched sometime next year.

Considering the fact that some of humanity’s most powerful eyes stand firmly here on the ground, and that there is only so much these super-eyes could see from afar; possibly we will never know with certainty whether we are neighbours to aliens. However, the mere prospect of an alien life possibly thriving in our backyard is enough to send shivers down some spines including the great physicist Stephen Hawking, and give goose bumps to others.

In any case, we are now ever so close to the ‘Truth’ which is most certainly out there somewhere, somewhere closer than we might care to imagine.

This 360-degree panorama depicts the surface of a newly detected planet, TRAPPIST 1-d. Explore this artist’s rendering of an alien world by moving the view using your mouse or your mobile device.