What Does Life Look Like on the TRAPPIST-1 Planets?
NASA recently announced the discovery of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star also known as 2MASS J23062928-050228.
Personally, I would’ve named an ultra-cool dwarf star “Gimli”, but that’s me
New planets are discovered all the time, but these ones are different. All seven planets are the about the size of Earth, and three lay within the “habitable zone” of TRAPPIST-1, the right distance from their sun to support life.
Astronomers believe this could be their best chance yet of finding a nice girl
Scientists are now making plans to look for life on the planets around TRAPPIST-1, and next year NASA will launch the James Webb Space Telescope in that general direction to see what they can see. We may actually be getting close to knowing whether there is other life in the solar system. It’s all very exciting. The TRAPPIST-1 planets are currently called TRAPPIST-1 b, c, d, e, f, g, and h, but it would be easy to come up with some better names for 7 dwarf sun planets.
Needless to say, people are pretty excited to see what all this new life might look like. I’m betting they look like Kardashians. The problem is that even our fastest spacecraft, the Voyager 1, would take 685 000 years to get there, which is garbage. I get thrown into a blind rage waiting 2 minutes to microwave my Pizza Pockets, let alone 685 000 years to see some life in the TRAPPIST-1 system. I want to see weird aliens now, dammit.
Hot Pockets take 4 minutes to microwave. They’re the leading cause of violence in America
So instead, we’re just going to guess what life on the TRAPPIST-1 planets look like using science. Kind of like we do with dinosaurs or ghosts, or anyone from before the age of photography. Make sense? Not really. Here we go!
To the land of wild speculation!
All 7 planets orbit TRAPPIST-1 very closely, within the distance between the sun and Mercury, which I sincerely hope you recognize is the closest planet to our sun. That means that the 7 planets get hit with a lot of UV radiation, meaning the people out there would have to have lots of melanin in their skin, and would therefore be very tan.
They must have ridiculous tan lines
Despite being so close to their sun, though, the TRAPPIST-1 planets wouldn’t get much light. Most of the light that dwarf stars produce are in infrared waves, which are invisible. So the sky on these planets would never get much brighter than just after sunset on Earth, meaning the inhabitants must have really big eyes to capture as much light as possible. And some of the planets don’t spin like Earth, so that sunset would last for eternity. Which is romantic.
Not for the people on TRAPPIST-1 b through h, it doesn’t
Judging by the density of the planets, scientists figure they’re probably incredibly rocky, which means all that liquid water that’s probably up there would be pooled in weird, inaccessible cracks and crevices. That means all the TRAPPISTers would have weird, awkward anteater lips to be able to drink.
Another cool thing about the TRAPPIST-1 system is that the planets are so close together that they would all be visible in the sky at almost twice the size that we see the moon. So presumably you could see the people on the other planets. Which, if they’re anything like Earthlings, means that they would all be competing heavily for attention, maybe even seven times harder than our reality TV “stars”. They would be an ostentatious bunch, those TRAPPISTinians.
There’s a lot of manufactured drama and completely insufferable people in the TRAPPIST-1 system
“But wait”, you might say, “Why would you assume that the inhabitants of these planets would be attention-seeking? Why would they even have a concept for attention, or human-like cognition at all? For that matter, why would they have eyes or lips or skin? Aren’t the odds of any life in the TRAPPIST-1 system being at all humanoid vanishingly small? Aren’t researchers looking more for microbial soup, like the way life on earth started? Isn’t this whole premise of guessing what life looks like somewhere else completely preposterous?”
“Shut up”, I would say. And then I’d keep going.
So where does that leave us? We know the TRAPPISTese have deep tans to protect themselves from their sun, which is super close. They have big eyes, to see in the dim light, and weirdly-shaped lips to suck liquid water from crevices in their harsh, rocky terrain. We know that they work incredibly hard to get attention, any attention at all, from anyone in their solar systems. That means… …Know what? I was right.
When we get to TRAPPIST-1 in 685 000 years, this show will still be on the air
We always knew that family wasn’t from this planet.
Dan is wondering whether they have Pizza Pockets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Email him at info [at] scienceeverywhere.ca to see a topic covered here.