TRAPPIST 1, again.

It’s awesome, but something is missing.

As I said in the previous post regarding TRAPPIST-1, we will have to wait for the results coming from next generation telescopes such as JWST (2018) and E-ELT (2024), to determine if some of the planets of TRAPPIST-1 system harbors life.

In the meantime we can make some inferences based on data in our possession.

First of all, we see clear similarities with our solar system, including some truly remarkable and never seen before, which make us hopeful about the possibility that at least in one of the planets of TRAPPIST-1 system there may be life; in particular I recall:

  • the presence of seven rocky planets;
  • the possible presence of oceans on some of these planets;
  • the presence of three planets in the habitable zone, one of which is very similar to Earth.

But after a more careful examination, we notice a major difference, the absence of gas giants.

Even if the gas giants are not properly suitable for the development life (at least as we know it), they significantly contribute to the evolution of complex living beings on the inner planets of the system.

trappist 1 solar system comparison
TRAPPIST – 1 and Solar System (represented not in scale). Gas giants act as a shield for the inner planets against the impacts of comets and asteroids. In fact, their intense gravitational field attract many of these celestial bodies [image source: up image: NASA; down image: wikipedia].

 

 

shoemaker levy 9
Infrared image of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact with Jupiter on 1994 [image source: University of Hawaii].
In fact, the most widely accepted theories about the evolution of the solar system,  attribute to Jupiter a decisive role in enabling the development of complex life forms on Earth.

According to this model, its intense gravitational field has attracted like a magnet, most of celestial bodies wandering in space, such as comets and asteroids, which otherwise would have caused frequent catastrophic bombardments.

 

Chelyabinsk-fireball-dashcam-best
The Chelyabinsk meteor (Russia – 15 February 2013) is an event that occur once every 100 years. The object released 400-500 kiloton, about 30 times the bomb blasted at Hiroshima (Japan – 1945) [see footage].
moon impact
Effect of bombardment on the Moon – NASA simulation

The TRAPPIST-1 system, whose age is estimated at 500 million years, is still very young and could still be the scene of intense bombardment of comets and asteroids. The absence of a gas giant in the outer part of the system could lead to a higher frequency of impacts on the inner planets, thereby causing frequent planetary disasters resulting in mass extinctions (as occurred on Earth 65 million years ago ) and hampering the development of complex life forms (the topic is covered in depth in my book “Extraterrestrial Civilization and The First Directive – a possible solution to the Fermi Paradox“).

 

To date, in case a celestial body will come on a collision course with Earth, there is still no technology to bring Bruce Willis into space to prevent a catastrophe that would bring us to the Stone Age or extinction.

Armageddon
Armageddon 1998 directed by Michael Bay – trailer

 

Key words: Life in the Universe – ExoplanetsTRAPPIST-1Fermi ParadoxMass ExtinctionGas Giant 

 

Posted March 29, 2017

 

 

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