NASA announced on Wednesday the discovery of a series of earth sized planets that likely contain liquid water, roughly 40 light-years from earth. According to NASA there are 7 planets in this particular system, and three of them are “firmly in the hospitable zone”, meaning they are close enough to the star (their version of the Sun) that any surface water would not be constantly frozen, but far enough away that it isn’t too hot for water to remain in its liquid form. In theory this system represents an excellent opportunity to find life outside of earth.
I have to admit, this particular system of exoplanets is particularly interesting. The dwarf star that these exoplanets orbit around is smaller and cooler than our sun, which means the planets are much closer to the star and much closer together than the planets in our solar system. According to NASA, the planets are so close together that you could theoretically see geologic features (mountains, canyons, etc.) from neighboring planets, and in some cases they may appear larger than the moon does from earth.
The particularly imaginative among us probably have grandiose visions of a Star Wars like system, where alien lifeforms fly from planet to planet dueling with light sabers and advanced laser rifle technology. There’s no news yet of a potential moon-sized weaponized space station, but the Resurgent will monitor the story closely. Unfortunately this system is roughly 64,000,000% (actual figures, I didn’t make that up) farther away than Pluto, so exploring these planets isn’t exactly feasible.
In reality, the odds of finding life outside of earth seem incredibly slim. Even if we humor the molecules to man, worship at the alter of naturalism crowd, it just doesn’t make much sense. We have found life in the most unlikely places imaginable on earth, showing that the existence of life isn’t necessarily dependent on conditions. If life can adapt to live in extreme environments here, it should be able to develop and adapt to live in conditions present on Mars. Of course the problem with this logic is, you need life to exist before it can adapt, a pesky reality some people don’t want to recognize. This announcement by NASA is quite fascinating for the nerds among us, but don’t expect to discover aliens anytime soon.