The news from NASA this week has excited not only astronomers but everyone in the scientific community, including sci fi writers. The news of the planetary system Trappist-1 being discovered is amazing. Seven planets in the system with three in the sweet spot, the habitable zone that could contain water and therefore sustain life. We won’t know for sure until we either send a probe or visit the system but the signs are encouraging at least.
When I was growing up the question all astronomers was asking was ‘are we alone?’ This has been addressed in many sci fi films and books and is a staple plot device in the sci fi genre. It was a question no one at the time thought would get answered in our lifetime. As technology advanced though, many other burning questions had found answers but this one seemed doomed to remain unanswered. This was something that was way beyond our reach, literally. To find the answer we would have to travel beyond our own solar system and into the realms of deep space where the nearest star was at least four years away if we travelled at the speed of light. Well it seems the question could be answered sooner than anyone ever thought possible. Before you go booking your seat on the next shuttle available to visit these planets I must assure you that’s not what I meant. Advances in telescope technology has enabled technicians at NASA and other institutions such as Spitzer, Kepler and Hubble to further investigate these signals and explore these planets for more signs that life could exist on these planets.
I don’t know about anyone else but I am truly excited about this. It’s too easy to become laid back or blase about this because we visit strange new worlds almost every day either on tv or at the movies so this is nothing new to us, with one huge exception. This is real life and all the other stuff is fantasy. This new star system that has been discovered is what dreams are made of, well the dreams of writers like myself at least.