Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bulletin:NASA's Spitzer Telescope Discovers Accessible Red Dwarf Star With Several Earthlike Planets

For the first time,NASA has discovered a star with seven Earth-sized planets,three of which are in the habitable zone.The findings,which many scientists consider exciting,were broadcast worldwide by NASA on 22 February 2017.Agency scientists and collaborators expressed amazement at the discovery of an entire solar system of Earth cousins orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star called Trappist-1.Trappist-1 is 39 light years away,which is too far for crewed spacecraft to travel to in the forseeable future,yet close enough that the James Webb Space Telescope,to be launched in 2018,and even the Hubble Space Telescope currently in space,will be able to provide reams of data about the star and its solar system of possibly life-harbouring planets.
NASA said that SETI instruments had already swept the Trappist-1 solar system for signs of intelligent beings,but couldn't detect any relevant signals.Now the Spitzer Space Telescope,Kepler Space Observatory and Hubble are being trained on Trappist-1 to glean all the data they can until JWST can join the study.Planets such as the three in the habitable zone of Trappist-1 are capable of pooling liquid water on the surface.The fact that JWST,Hubble and Spitzer are able to study Trappist-1 without clouds interfering and so on,and will have three targets to study,not just one as is typically the case,makes the discovery a major step forward in the search for life on exoplanets,the scientists said.
The red dwarf star Trappist-1 is much smaller and cooler than the Sun.If the Sun is a basketball,Trappist-1 is a golf ball.One of the Trappist-1 planets,Trappist-1 F,seems likely to be water-rich.It has a nine day orbit and receives about as much starlight as Mars.On exoplanet Trappist-1 E,you could have temperatures similar to Earth;it is 5% of the distance of the Earth from the Sun to its star,Trappist-1.Trappist-1 G is the largest exoplanet in its solar system,with a radius 13% larger than Earth's.About a thousand red dwarf stars are known,and these will now be searched by all available telescopes.About a few dozen exoplanets in the habitable zone are known,yet they are not accessible to near-term study as the Trappist-1 solar system is.
We should expect final results of the study of the Trappist-1 exoplanets sometime in the early 2020's,NASA said.*
The Trappist-1 exoplanets are only a few times the distance of the Earth from the Moon to their star,Trappist-1.They are so close to each other,they look like the size of the Moon from each other's surfaces.We can get good signals-to-noise ratios while studying these Trappist-1 exoplanets.NASA JPL and contractor Lockheed Martin engineered the Spitzer telescope that made the discovery.*
Lockheed Martin (LMT)

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