The Morning News When scientists discover habitable new planets, they raise old hopes for extraterrestrial life.
An artist's concept of what it would be like to stand on the surface of exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC).

Almost as soon as astronomers turned their search towards small stars, they found a bounty of Earth-sized planets.

Last May, astronomers announced that they'd found three planets orbiting a small, cool star situated near Aquarius, 40 light-years away from Earth.

They doubled down on their announcement yesterday by declaring that seven Earth-sized planets, likely rocky in composition, orbited Trappist-1 in the star's "Goldilocks zone" where life-permitting temperatures prevail. 

The success validated a change in strategy for astronomers, who for decades have ignored dwaft stars like Trappist-1, which is 200 times dimmer than our sun. While it's possible that astronomers were really lucky in finding so many planets, it's more likely that we've been underestimating the number of Earth-like planets.

The money line from a Cambridge astronomer not involved in the discovery: "We’ve made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there." 

Notably, many astrologers contend we are currently in the Age of Aquarius

Feb 23, 2017

If habitable exoplanets do turn out to be as common as this discovery suggests, where are the aliens? That's the Fermi paradox.

Research shows building blocks for organic chemistry can exist around dwarfs like Trappist-1.

The building blocks of life are more common in our galaxy than previously thought. The bleak flip side: in the case study examined, the carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, and oxygen get there because one of their orbiting planets crashed into the star, its matter ultimately exhaled into orbit like a belch from a sated diner. 

Feb 23, 2017

A giant high-tech Faraday cage made with pixel-like optical elements could control precisely what electromagnetic radiation gets through—an informational version of the air-filtration and containment of a biohazard lab. 

We want to find out if there are aliens out there, but do we really want to let them in? A sort of bonkers set of ideas for making a two-way mirror for Earth.
↩︎ Nautilus
Feb 23, 2017

Science fiction generates compelling, if depressing, answers to why we haven't found alien intelligence.

"The thing that makes the Fermi Paradox interesting for SF is that like the speed of light, you have to have an answer for it. It can be any answer you like, but it has to answer it."

Tor compiles a list of possible solutions to the Fermi paradox, including: 

—The aliens will arrive any minute
—The aliens, who planted us as a crop, will arrive any minute for the harvest 
—The aliens are already here
—The aliens are so advanced we can't even understand that they're already here
—"Life is common, intelligence vanishingly rare."
—Our part of the universe is boring
—The aliens think we're boring
—All the aliens have had their own Singularities and live in other dimensions now

Then there's the somewhat noble possiblity that we really are the chosen ones, the first intelligent species, as well as the depressing probability that we, like every galactic civilization before us, will kill ourselves before we can explore the stars.

Feb 23, 2017

Speaking of aliens, this year's Nebula Awards contenders prove out-of-this-world tales can come from right here on Earth.

Feb 23, 2017
More Headlines