Astronomers who used NASA’ s Hubble Space Telescope have found chances of life in two rocky exoplanets outside Earth’s solar system. The team said, exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, located at least 40 light years away from our earth may not have puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres.
“The lack of a smothering hydrogen-helium envelope increases the chances for habitability on these planets,” said team member Nikole Lewis from Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. This was the first-ever inquiry conducted to explore chances of life outside the solar system, added the team members.
“If the discovered planets had a covering of Hydrogen-helium, then there would be no chance to find life there,” said astronomers.TRAPPIST-1b orbits the red dwarf star in 1.5 days and TRAPPIST-1 takes four days.
Both planets are between 20 and 100 times closer to their star than the Earth is to the Sun.
Since their star is fainter than our sun, researchers think that at least one of the planets, TRAPPIST-1c, may be within the star’s habitable zone, where moderate temperatures could allow for liquid water to pool.
NASA has hailed the discovery as a major achievement of the Hubble. “These initial Hubble observations are a promising first step in learning more about these nearby worlds, whether they could be rocky like the Earth, and whether they could sustain life,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
“This is an exciting time for NASA and exoplanet research,” he added.
The researchers hope to use Hubble to conduct follow-up observations to search for thinner atmospheres, composed of elements heavier than hydrogen, like those of the Earth and Venus.
The team was led by Julien de Wit of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. they are obsrving the new planets with the near-infrared light of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.
The scientists have used spectroscopy to find chemical makeup of the planet’s atmosphere.