NASA’s announcement on the discovery of an alien solar system will likely see Mathew McConaughey, as well as Matt Damon fill the void of Trappist-1 in a Hollywood blockbuster for the ages. Last week, NASA revealed to the world their miraculous new discovery, seven so-called ‘exoplanets’ revolving around a star called Trappis-1, which may hold the key to humans becoming an interplanetary species. Where is James Cameron when you need him?
NASA has deemed this discovery an “accelerated leap forward” in the search for extra terrestrial life. In previous years the possibility of finding Earth 2.0 has been a bleak prospect, leaving Mars as our only hope, however the dialogue is rapidly changing with the discovery of Trappist-1. NASA’s science directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen spoke in a press conference in Washington, stating that “this gives us a hint that finding a second earth is not an if but a when”.
The star was first documented in May 2016, using a land telescope in Chile where three Earth-sized planets were found orbiting around it. Dr Michael Gillon of the Space Sciences, Technologies and Astrophysics Research Institute emphasised the need to observe the system from space, “We had to go to a space telescope – the Spitzer Space Telescope, to observe the star continuously for three weeks in a row to be able to see all the transits happening.”
Trappist-1, otherwise known as 2MASS J23062928-0502285 is a Red Dwarf star. Trappist-1 sits in the constellation of Aquarius, and is orbited by seven Earth sized ‘exoplanets’. These planets may be able to harbor oceans of water on their surfaces, with three falling in what scientists are calling the ‘habitable zone’ keeping an adequate distance from the star, the three planets are said to be ‘not too cold’ and ‘not too hot’. At about 40 light-years, 235 million miles, Trappist-1 is just around the corner, according to NASA.
Nasa’s description of the Dwarf star and its neighbouring planets sounds like something out of a Halo or Star Wars movie, “If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.”
The description of the Trappist-1 world seems to be similar to that of the Star Wars planet Hoth, an Icy planet that’s ultra cool allowing for neighbouring planets to carry water. While we may not find any Jedi, it seems life would never be the same. Observations seem to suggest that planets orbiting around Trappist-1 may be locked tidally to the star. In plain English, the planet faces the same side of the star all the time, which would mean one side would perpetually be day and the other night. Weather patterns would also be much different to what we may be used to here on Earth, with extreme temperature changes and strong winds from the dayside to the night side. The planets seem to have their own hurdles that require further investigation before anyone can guarantee human life would work in the Trappist-1 system. One thing is certain; we seem to be bridging the gap in either one-day calling another planet ‘home’ or finding life beyond our solar system.
What about getting us there?
As we understand it, there is no Millennium Falcon that would allow for humans to make the journey; we may have to leave that to Elon Musk and the Space X team. For now the system is being monitored by telescopes in space.