Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nearby Brown Dwarf Stars: The Most Promising Home of Extraterrestrial Life?

Based on recent findings announced by astronomers back in May 2, 2016 prove that nearby brown dwarf stars are the most likely places to discover extraterrestrial life? 

By: Ringo Bones  

A few days ago, astronomers have discovered not one, not two, but three new Earth-like planets that may be the most promising places yet to look for signs of alien or extraterrestrial life. What’s more, they don’t circle a sun-like star and often referred to as “bizarre planets”. Instead, these planets are all tightly orbiting what’s called a brown dwarf star in our galactic backyard – just 40 light-years away. And these planets’ relatively close proximity just lies within what our current astronomical instruments are capable of chemically detecting via spectroscopic means when it comes to detecting signs of extraterrestrial life. 

As announced by astrophysicist and co-discoverer Michaël Gillon. an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium, whose team spotted the planetary triad using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope or TRAPPIST in La Silla, Chile. The planets orbit a brown dwarf star previously known as 2MASS J230629228-0502285 that has since been  dubbed TRAPPIST-1 as of May 2, 2016 named after the telescope that discovered it which is under the administration of the European Southern Observatory, The star TRAPPIST-1 is roughly the size of the planet Jupiter and considerably smaller than our sun. The star isn’t bright white like the sun. It is called a brown dwarf star because it emits a lot of infrared light, which falls slightly outside the range of what the human eye can see. And according to data collected by astronomical instruments, TRAPPIST-1 isn’t quite technically a star – rather it’s a big hot ball of gas that never got around to fusing hydrogen like most “normal stars” do.

Standing on one of the planets surfaces and looking up would be quite dramatic. “If we were there, we would see it as red and quite big in the sky,” Gillon said. The “alien” sun would appear larger because the planets are so much closer to their star than we are to ours, the red sun would also appear much larger in the sky. It takes our Earth around 365 ¼ days to complete its orbit our sun, for example, but the innermost of the newly discovered planets of TRAPPIST-1 completes its orbit in just one and a  half Earth days and the next closest in 2.6 Earth-days. Since the dwarf star is several thousand degrees Kelvin cooler than our own sun, it is safe to assume that the star’s “Goldilocks Zone” is much closer in comparison to our solar system. 

The brown dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 is relatively pretty close at 40 light-years away from the Earth and can be seen in the night sky in the constellation of Aquarius. And as soon as the James Webb Space Telescope becomes operational by 2018, the brown dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 will be one of the top priority targets in order to find out if it certainly shows signs of extraterrestrial biological activity. 

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