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How old is life on Earth?

Once we determine that, we’ll better understand what the Trappist planets can tell us

By Philip Ball  

This illustration shows the seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and ultra-cool dwarf star, as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. Credits: NASA-JPL/Caltech

Amid all the excitement surrounding the seven Earth-like planets discovered around the pint-sized star Trappist-1 in the constellation of Aquarius, it seems surprising that there’s scant mention of how old the stellar system is. The estimate is upward of 500 million years, and it’s worth noting because, if a paper just published in Nature is correct, that’s about as long as it took for life to get started after the Earth formed.

The new work, from an international team led…

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