The prospect of discovering life similar to life on Earth often runs into several road blocks when surveying the heavens via telescope or advanced radar arrays. One of the primary differences between Earth and other planets is the major difference between the Sun and other stars. Whenever a Sun-like star is discovered, special attention is paid to it, since it holds the potential for future inhabitants, but also could be host to life that could have evolved along similar paths to Earth.
The gravity of the planets, however, are estimated to be significantly different from Earth’s, possibly to the point of being hostile to human life as their masses range from 5.3 to 24.9 times the size of Earth. Life could theoretically exist on a small scale on such a planet, but current understandings of science indicate that such life would have to be significantly different from human life, and would more likely be simple in composition like prokaryotic one celled organisms. Intensely high gravity is suspected in the event that masses on Earth are comparable to those of the other planets, but with the unpredictably resilient nature of life, it may be possible for organisms to exist any number of places previously unknown. The discovery of extremophiles, for example, such as the Methanopyrus kandleri which grows with extreme speed in temperatures above 217 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, extremophiles may exist in different conditions that may be harsh to other forms of life or even require the extreme conditions to survive. But the real advantage of finding these planets is that they may be used as guide stones that show the location of other Earth-like planets orbiting the star 61 Virginis.
Another advantage of the discovery of planets around 61 Virginis is the proximity of the star itself. The system is a mere 27.8 Light-years from Earth meaning if a sub-light drive were ever created a probe (several probes, actually) could reach it within the careers of the scientists involved in the launch. Of course such a technology is years from being developed just yet, but it is interesting to take notice of the potential. Some would propose the obvious suggestion, “Perhaps visitors from there could some day or are already visiting us.”
If these larger planets are so easily identified using the “wobble” technique of gravitational perturbations, then perhaps it would be possible to eventually calculate the exact size and position of other planets more fitting Earth’s gravitational pull and holding a higher potential for life as we understand it. The new discovery is merely the newest of dozens of discoveries of planets that may one day turn out to host life on either a small scale, or of more complex (even potentially intelligent) composition. Of the limited portion of the sky that has been actively explored, we have seen time and time again that there are planets that may one day be a fitting place for Earth colonists to move to and inhabit. And who knows what we may discover upon their surfaces?