TRAPPIST-1 Planets and Life

TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup - NASA
TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup – NASA Illustration

In May of 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (called TRAPPIST) announced the finding of three planets orbiting a single star which has been labeled “TRAPPIST-1.” On February 22, 2017, astronomers released to the media a report stating that they have discovered four more planets orbiting Trappist-1. The planets are small, and their location in relation to the star they orbit indicates that they could have liquid water on them. The media has picked this up and USA Today (February 23, 2017, page B1) has headlined “Newly Discovered Network of Planets Could Harbor Life.”

This is just another example of media sensationalizing and misapplying a scientific study. Let us point out before going any further that we have repeatedly said that there may be life elsewhere in the universe. We have also pointed out that chance is an unworkable explanation for the creation of life anywhere. The Bible doesn’t say this is the only place where God has seen fit to create life, so the question of life in space is moot.

The facts are that this is a remarkable scientific achievement made possible because the planets transit the star so that we can see them because we are looking at them at the proper angle. We now know that the process of star formation produces multiple planets orbiting the stars. To suggest that there will be life on one of these planets is a wild speculation. First of all, the star is very small and very dim. It is a red star just slightly bigger than Jupiter. That means it will emit the wrong wavelengths for photosynthetic life at least, and radiation levels are probably prohibitive. There are many other parameters that have to be carefully chosen for life to exist–things like shielding magnetic fields, sheltering major planets, proper spin rates, protective atmospheric layers, proper densities of the atmosphere, and many more. A discussion of some of these parameters is available in videos # 6 & 7 on our website.
–John N. Clayton © 2017