TRAPPIST-1: exoplanets could exchange microorganisms

After the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system composed of seven planets, many scientists are trying to find out more, especially with regard to their potentially habitable character. The latest news concerns a possibility of exchange of micro-organisms between these planets due to their proximity to each other.

A few weeks ago, NASA unveiled the discovery of seven new rocky planets around the star TRAPPIST-1, which sparked excitement within the scientific community as well as the general public. The prospect of finding life elsewhere has been an undisguised fantasy for decades, having found a new echo with this discovery.

A new question has recently arisen: what if these planets could exchange microorganisms with each other? According to scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this could be because they have established that the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system are located at a distance ten times less from each other than the Earth compared to Mars.

This notion implies an increase of the chances of exchanges of micro-organisms by 103 times! Why not, especially since we already know that such exchanges can take place through cosmic objects such as meteorites. Here, the proximity of the TRAPPIST-1 planets favors this kind of supposition.

However, it is more important to understand which of these planets are potentially habitable and according to NASA Spitzer Space Telescope researchers, three of the seven planets observed are in this case. The latter visible below (planets e, f and g) would receive enough heat to harbor life.

(Image credit: NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope)

This other supposition is not shared by everyone. Thus, researchers at Cornell University believe that a more distant planet could also harbor life provided it has an atmosphere. Obviously, this is all hypothetical and we will know more when new results are published.

There will surely be new things after the launch of the James-Webb space telescope in October 2018. More modern and more precise, the latter will provide more concrete information to astronomers with its infrared spectrum. Ideal for the observation of exoplanets, this telescope will surely make it possible to know if life is really present on the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system. To be continued !

Sources: Le Monde — Universal Science — Sputnik

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