February 23, 2017
Seven Earth-size Exoplanets Discovered!
This just in! Turns out it wasn’t just dust on the telescope lens: NASA just announced the discovery of seven earth-size planets orbiting the same star only 235 trillion miles away. In space terms, that practically makes us next-door neighbors!
This artist's concept shows what each of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may look like. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
What exactly does this new solar system TRAPPIST-1 mean for our universe? Well, three of these newly discovered planets land smack-dab in the middle of what scientists call the habitable zone, or the distance from the star it orbits “where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.” Though scientists have some serious studying to do before we can definitively say whether any of the new TRAPPIST-1 planets are habitable, the potential is very promising.
So if three of these new TRAPPIST-1 planets land in the habitable zone, what about the other four? According to NASA, all seven planets could have liquid water, the most crucial ingredient for life -- assuming the right atmospheric conditions.
Unlike our solar system, the planets in TRAPPIST-1 are very close together. If we’re able to visit one of the TRAPPIST-1 planets one day, we could be able to watch each neighboring planet pass by on its orbital journey! Until then, you can explore TRAPPIST-1 d, the third planet in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system in 3D using your computer or mobile device. If you have a virtual reality device, you can also take a stroll around.
An artist's fantasy of the surface of TRAPPIST-1e. Credit: NASA
We don’t know about you, but we’re hoping to spend our next vacation luxuriating by the cosmic pool. At least that's where you'll find Nate Swinehart, the artist for today's star-studded Doodle.