The brilliant astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Today, something incredible — somewhere far away — has just been announced. That is, the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets … at least six of which scientists say could potentially harbor life.
The announcement came Wednesday via a group of 30 astronomers from eight countries who were involved in verifying the observations last year. The project involved seven major telescopes, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
The researchers say these seven planets orbit a “dwarf star” named Trappist-1. That star is located relatively close to us, at least by astronomical standards. It is only about 40 light years (235 trillion miles) from where you’re reading this.
It was this proximity to Earth, as well as the orientation of the orbits of the planets, that allowed researchers to gather detailed data on their discovery.
Perhaps most interesting here is that astronomers say that six of these planets appear to be warm enough that liquid water could exist on their surfaces.
Given that liquid water is the key to being able to support organic life, what we could be looking at in the Trappist-1 planet discovery is the first realistic chance of life outside the Earth.
Man, I love science!
|Top row: Artist conceptions of the seven planets of Trappist-1 with their orbital periods, distances from their star, radii and masses as compared to those of Earth. Bottom row: Data about Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Source: NASA/JPL-CALTECH. Click for larger view.|
An article on the discovery in Wednesday’s New York Times offered up the following comments on the possibility of life on these newly discovered planets from one prominent astronomer:
“I think that we have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury H.M.J. Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in England and another member of the research team. “Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to that we have on Earth, then we will know.”
The NYT also cited another astronomer not involved directly in the project who explained what this discovery means:
“The Trappist-1 planets make the search for life in the galaxy imminent,” said Sara Seager, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not a member of the research team.
“For the first time ever, we don’t have to speculate. We just have to wait and then make very careful observations and see what is in the atmospheres of the Trappist planets.”
If there is evidence of life on one or more of the Trappist-1 planets, it will be one of the greatest victories for humankind ever, as it will basically confirm the idea that “we are not alone.”
Of course, the presence of organic life per se has nothing to do with little-green men with big heads and big round eyes.
Yet if there is life out there that can be verified … and given the near-unimaginable time in existence and vastness of the universe … would it really be a big stretch to say that intelligent life such as our own has to also be out there?
The possibilities of today’s announced discovery should serve to ignite all our imaginations, and trigger everyone’s sense of wonder.
I know I’m excited to talk to my kids about this tonight … and I hope you feel the same.
Before we finish today’s Afternoon Edition, I want to bring the discussion back down to Earth for a moment.
We received a lot of very positive feedback on our Saturday story, “The Science of Compassion in Marriage” piece.
The thrust of this piece was that science now shows us that the act of showing compassion to your spouse is rewarding in and of itself. Even if he or she isn’t aware of your kindness act.
Hey, have I told you how much I love science?
Now I’d like to give you, the audience, a forum for your comments.
I agree with compassionate giving helping a marriage. What’s also a part of it is not having to be asked, but giving/helping automatically. Based on a 43-year marriage. This was also the case with my parents who were married 63 years, and my in-laws who were married for 66 years.
Tom C. writes:
Jane and I have been married for over 50 years. I have suffered the “give till it hurts” and “I have to do this and that because she won’t” thing. That has passed due to my acceptance that, without her, I would be doing it all for nothing. These things I do, without my comments to her, are for us. She is well-worth it and I do notice what she does do for us, now. Maybe I have grown up a bit. Thanks for reminding me.
Charles G. writes:
Brad: Your messages, this being a prime example, frankly are of more benefit that all the technical research and subscription programs. There is profound insight here which is not limited to the current study or the Dalai Lama but is scattered throughout the Bible. Thanks so much for drawing our consciousness to the really significant matters of life.
Brad response: Thank you all for writing in, and thank you for the kind words. Money and investing topics will always be our focus here at Uncommon Wisdom Daily. But intriguing new scientific discoveries — be it the search for life in the universe or compassion in relationships — are an integral part of life. They are, in the big picture, perhaps even more important than stocks, bonds, commodities and other investing subjects.
The Dow Industrials notched their ninth-straight record close, a feat last achieved on Jan. 20, 1987. The industrial average gained 32.6 points (+0.16%) to end the day at 20,775.60.
• DuPont (DD) helped propel the industrials higher. DD rose more than 3.4% to a 19-year high near $80. This was thanks to the European Union’s reported interest in expediting DuPont’s merger with Dow Chemical (DOW, +4%), which could happen as soon as March.
• Facebook (FB) now enables money transfers to and from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. London-based TransferWise provides the technology via a chatbot in Facebook Messenger. TransferWise, whose customers send about $1 billion through its website each month in 50-plus countries, is backed by PayPal’s (PYPL) Peter Thiel, Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson and several other high-profile investors.
• Auto loans hit a record $1.16 trillion in Q4, according to the N.Y. Fed, thanks to a burst of year-end car shopping. As Bloomberg put it, “Every licensed driver in the U.S., on average, owes about $6,100 in car payments.”
• Saudi Aramco set to be the world’s biggest IPO. Saudi Arabia’s state-owned energy company is valued at $2 trillion-plus, and its public stake will likely be worth as much as $150 billion. HSBC (HSBC), JPMorgan (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS) are reported to become the lead underwriters of the soon-to-be-public entity. Next step: deciding whether to list on the N.Y., London or Toronto exchanges. (WSJ)
• Amazon (AMZN) ranked tops on Harris’ annual Corporate Reputation Poll for the second-straight year. To thank its customers, it’s offering an $8.62 discount off purchases of $50 or more. Use the promo code “BIGTHANKS” to claim your gift through midnight Pacific. This unusual number is based on the company’s record-high 86.27% score on the Harris poll. (PCMag)
Good luck and happy investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily