Scientists have found that TRAPPIST-1's solar system is very, very old, and that means bad news in terms of our hopes for finding life there.
Scientists have just made an important discovery about the TRAPPIST-1 system, a system of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a single star just 40 light years from Earth that seemed like one of the best chances of finding alien life. Unfortunately, the news is bad for those hoping to find extraterrestial life anytime soon.
TRAPPIST-1 is a very, very old system, with scientists dating it between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old, whereas our solar system is about 4.5 billion years old. That means life may have already come and gone before we showed up.
But that’s not the only problem with TRAPPIST-1. Most of TRAPPIST-1’s planets are in a tight orbit around the store, meaning they’ve been pounded by high energy radiation over billions of years, making it pretty unlikely they’ve been home to life despite their Earth-like features.
But there is still hope, as the planets have a lower density than Earth, so large reservoirs of water could have developed into a thick atmosphere that could protect from the radiation from the star. But the hopes of finding life there have certainly dimmed.
“If we want to know more about whether life could survive on a planet outside our solar system, it’s important to know the age of its star,” the statement from NASA reads. “Young stars have frequent releases of high-energy radiation called flares that can zap their planets’ surfaces. If the planets are newly formed, their orbits may also be unstable. On the other hand, planets orbiting older stars have survived the spate of youthful flares, but have also been exposed to the ravages of stellar radiation for a longer period of time.
“Scientists now have a good estimate for the age of one of the most intriguing planetary systems discovered to date — TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven Earth-size worlds orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star about 40 light-years away. Researchers say in a new study that the TRAPPIST-1 star is quite old: between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years. This is up to twice as old as our own solar system, which formed some 4.5 billion years ago.”