Could this blocky GIF be our first look at aliens?
Scientists say Trappist-1, a star only 40 light-years away, could have habitable planets. That's surprising when you see what they're looking at.
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Told you. It's not exactly mind-blowing, but it's a start.
The image is 11 x 11 pixels, and it covers almost three months worth of observations by Kepler spanning Dec. 15, 2016 to March 4, 2017. The pixels look a little shifty, but that's not an alien cloaking device. It's actually some of the planets in the system passing in front of the star, which is how we know they're there in the first place.
Before you get too disappointed with this Atari-esque bit of astronomy, keep in mind that Kepler is a space telescope that it is quite literally on its last legs. In coming years, the next generation of advanced telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope will be deployed. They'll provide a much better look at Trappist-1 and its planets.
We may not see anything so extrodinary as those fanciful artists' renderings of the Trappist-1 system in our lifetime, but within just a year or two we could have much more detailed information on those worlds. And if we're really lucky, perhaps some hints of yet-to-be-detected inhabitants.
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