Trappist-1 and the Ultracool 7

Mashable’s Miriam Kramer was quick to temper expectations during the lead up to NASA’s news conference today.

And indeed, it wasn’t aliens. In May, TRAPPIST (The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) in Chile identified 3 extra-solar planets around an ultracool (technically correct!) star, which NASA’s Spitzer telescope and other earth-based telescopes confirmed while finding 4 more planets. The star—known as 2MASS J23062928−0502285 before earning its Hollywood name, TRAPPIST-1—is about the size of Jupiter 39 light years away in the constellation Aquarius. No, not visible: too dim, too far.

The planets appear to be roughly Earth-sized (careful: that doesn’t mean Earth-like) and three of them are in the so-called Goldilocks zone: the right distance from a star for liquid water to be present. At least conceivably. This narrow band around TRAPPIST-1 is also called the “habitable zone,” which warrants another word of caution; just because a planet is in the habitable zone does not make it habitable. It’s an easy mistake to make (lookin’ at you, Forbes).

 

As excited as I am? Could care less? Hit me up on Twitter: @prescottindigo.

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