Let's Go: 'Nearby' Star Has Seven Earth-Like Planets Orbiting

February 22, 2017


TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool (temperature-wise, not leather jacket and Ray-Bans) dwarf star some 39 light-years away. And it has not one, not two, not three, not four, not six, not eight, not nine, not ten, but SEVEN potentially habitable planets orbiting it. Well what are we waiting for? Let's strap on our space helmets and go wreck those planets too.

The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have ever detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying alien worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.

The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days. If these planets orbited a larger, brighter star they would be fried to a crisp. But TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in "the habitable zone," that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive.

I know 39 light-years isn't that far in the grand scheme of the universe, but in the practical scheme of the universe, that is far as shit away. A light-year, as I'm sure you're aware, is the distance light travels in a year, or around 5.9 trillion miles. So 39 light-years is around 230 trillion miles. For reference, our own sun is around 92.96 million miles away, or 8 LIGHT-MINUTES, and we haven't even visited it yet! "You're an idiot." Whatever, you send me there and I'll plant a flag on it.

Thanks to Tank, who's convinced the secret to the universe is actually at the bottom of the ocean. Atlantis?! "Yep." I knew it!

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