Recently Found Star System Holds Exciting Possibilities

By: Kayla Stephensen

Trappist-1, a recently discovered star system, is 40 light years away and contains 7 earth sized planets. Most if not all have the potential for holding water. Among these exoplanets, 3 of them are in habitable reach of their star, an ultra-cool dwarf. Due to the extremely low temperature of the star, all of Trappist-1’s planets are within the distance between our sun and Mercury. Their orbits range from 1.5 Earth days to 20 Earth days, compared to Mercury’s 88 Earth-day orbit. The stars are so close together that you can see most of the other stars in the “sky” of the planets.

Scientists are now trying to look for the composition of the atmospheres to see if life could be sustained. When the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched in 2018, it will be capable of determining whether or not water, methane, oxygen or even ozone are in the planets’ atmospheres. Webb will also be able to find the planets’ temperatures and surface pressures which is vital to finding out the habitability of the planets.

The system is named for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope that discovered three of the exoplanets back in May of 2016.

^Diagram of Trappist-1 by NASA


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