Evidence is gathering pace that two Earth-sized planets 40 lights year away could be habitable.
Well, that’s according to NASA anyway. The star which hosts the two Earth-sized worlds was discovered earlier this year, The Huffington Post reports.
But after further exploration using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have found evidence that they are unlikely to be dominated by hydrogen, which usually prevents the formation of life.
Nikole Lewis of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore said:
The lack of a smothering hydrogen-helium envelope increases the chances for habitability on these planets. If they had a significant hydrogen-helium envelope, there is no chance that either one of them could potentially support life because the dense atmosphere would act like a greenhouse.
The planets, TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c (mega creative NASA), were observed in near-infrared light, which revealed how the atmosphere may be made up.
NASA hasn’t discovered the whole content of the atmosphere just yet, but the early indications of low concentrations of hydrogen and helium are exciting its researchers.
The agency’s Geoff Yoder said:
These initial Hubble observations are a promising first step in learning more about these nearby worlds, whether they could be rocky like Earth, and whether they could sustain life. This is an exciting time for NASA and exoplanet research.
The two planets orbit closer to their red dwarf star, which is believed to be much dimmer than our Sun, meaning that at least one of the planets could orbit within the star’s habitable zone. This can give out a moderate temperate and has the potential to facilitate the formation of water.
Researchers now hope to use their telescope to search for the kind of thinner atmospheres found surrounding Earth and Venus.
Hopefully these scientific developments can finally prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life once and for all.