Maybe There are Aliens Next Door
The revelation that there’s a new kid on our celestial block that may support alien life is welcome, though whatever organisms that may be living in the Trappist-1 system have every right to call us that too. More than any ego battle about who has first rights to the universe, however, the very fact that we may soon have an answer to the earthlings’ existential question “Are we alone?” should be cause for joy. After all, though it has been known for the last half-decade that10-20% of the stars around us have Earth-size planets with atmospheres that can possibly support life, only now we know one such system with the right temperature band is practically round the corner in space terms: just 39 light years away. That seems uncomfortably close given that our ’hood — the Milky Way — stretches some 100,000 light years, but such numbers are deceptive. Even 39 light years means the Trappist-1 planets are 369 billion km away and, therefore, quite out of reach of our current conventional space travel vehicles and beyond the average human lifespan. Of course, the presence of such a ‘near’ neighbour with possibly inhabited — and habitable — environments may be just the inspiration Earth’s scientists need to take that technological leap of faith to make Star Trek-type intergalactic travel turn from science fiction to fact.