TRAPPIST-1: A Solar System of Earth-Sized Planets

The announcement that NASA hinted about being a major discovery related to planets orbiting another star turned out to actually be pretty major. In many cases, we’ve seen announcements of huge planets, single Earth-sized planets, or a super-Earth in the habitable zone around a star. This time, it’s even more significant.

TRAPPIST-1 is a very cool and small red dwarf star 39 light years away. Not only does it have one Earth-sized planet, but it has seven. And it’s not just one of them in the habitable zone, it’s three. How’s that for amazing?

Two were originally discovered by The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, then confirmed by NASA’s Spitzer Telescope. But Spitzer discovered a further five planets. When the James Webb Space Telescope is in operation, it will be used to study these planets even further. We may be able to discover the atmospheric composition, determining if they’re potentially habitable.

As these are planets orbiting a red dwarf, they are close to the star, with the outer planet having an orbital period of only 20 days. This means that they’re likely to be tidally locked, with one side of each planet facing the star. They don’t have enough information about the outer planet to determine its exact size, but scientists guess that it may be icy.

NASA released this video on the planets:

What do you think of this news? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

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10 thoughts on “TRAPPIST-1: A Solar System of Earth-Sized Planets”

  1. This is an interesting discovery. However, at the risk of sounding like a wet blanket I do worry whether all this poking around could portend trouble for humanity. On encountering other civilisations we humans have (mostly) not behaved well to put it mildly (witness the treatment of the native Americans). If we make intelligent life out there (if it exists) aware of our existence via our poking around, is it not possible they may regard us in a less than friendly manner? Of course its possible that life (if it exists) on these planets will be less advanced than what exists here on earth. Kevin

    1. Extremely likely it’ll be less advanced than life on Earth. I’m not sure if life could evolve that quickly on planets that are only half a billion years old.

      But I can see your concerns. However, I have a feeling that if we find intelligent life out there, it’s likely to be more advanced than us.

  2. If life can start here on our small, blue dot why couldn’t it start elsewhere. We’re not alone in this universe. What will happen should we ever find that out as fact is beyond me. I’m curious to see what will be revealed by studying TRAPPIST-1 closer.

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