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NASA Discovers Seven New Planets around Dwarf Star “TRAPPIST-1”
A huddle of seven worlds was found around a small, faint star, known as TRAPPIST1 in the constellation of Aquarius. The first three were discovered in May 2016
however, the other four were found on Wednesday 22 February 2017. Discovered by
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, this is the first time that so many Earth- sized
planets have been found in orbit around the same star, 3 of which are firmly in a
habitable zone.
The seven planets closely circle the
dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 which is 39
lightyears away from Earth (235
trillion miles), making it a prime
candidate to search for signs of life.
This group of planets are so closely
positioned together, that the seventh
planet takes only 21 days to orbit the
star. Evidence suggests that if a
person was standing on one of the
planet’s surfaces, they could gaze up and potentially see features of another world.
The TRAPPIST-1 star is so cool that liquid water could be sustained on planets orbiting
in close proximity to it, closer than any other planets in our solar system.
This major discovery has raised hopes that the hunt for other life beyond our solar
system could start sooner than we originally thought, along with the new generation of
telescopes due to come within the next decade.
We interviewed science teacher, Mr Wainwright, and asked him about how he heard
about this discovery and his view on the topic. He answered with: “I heard about it
through twitter and scientists that I follow. I think that it will give us a whole new area
to focus on. I think it would be shallow and naive to assume that we are the only life
form in the universe.”
We also interviewed science teacher Mr Ruston and asked the same question. He
responded with: “I found out through NASA’s website and twitter. I think that the
subject is interesting. I think there could be life in a long way to come. It is all about
the theoretical understanding of potential life on other planets.”
The planets may be tidally locked
onto their star, meaning that the
same side of the planet is always
facing the star. This could mean
that they may have different
weather patterns which would
create strong winds and extreme
temperature changes. In addition
to this, evidence shows that the
planets are likely to be rocky and
further observations will determine
if they have liquid water on their surfaces.
Research is still being carried out, however more complex and convincing molecular
signatures may be found by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope which is due to
launch next year. Furthermore, there are other instruments such as the Giant Magellan
which is due to switch on in 2023.