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Other Planets?

Lydia Umholtz, Newspaper Staff

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Seven Earth-sized planets located in habitable zones likely to have water were discovered by NASA’s Spitzer space telescope. All of the seven planets orbit around the ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. The star is 39.5 light years away in the constellation of aquarius. Three of the seven planets were discovered in 2015, but a paper on the discovery of another four planets was published on February 22, 2017. The exoplanets, planets that orbit stars outside the solar system,  research was celebrated the next day with a Google doodle. Co-leader of the Hubble study Nikole Lewis said “the TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets.”

The small size of TRAPPIST-1 makes it cool enough for planets to orbit at as close of a distance as Mercury is to our sun while still being able to contain water and potentially life. These planets rotate differently than earth with one side perpetually on their sun, a star no larger than Jupiter. The other side of the planets is in constant darkness. One side of the planet would have water at a boil while the other side would be frozen. These planets could provide scientific research with an example of lifes possibilities in such extreme environments. Sara Seager, an exoplanet expert at MIT believes “with this discovery we’ve made a giant, accelerated leap forward in our search for habitable worlds and life on other worlds potentially.”

This discovery marks yet another shift in research going into the study of extraterrestrial life. James Webb Telescope Project scientist Nikole Lewis speaks of the discovery “I would have never predicted this. It’s beyond anything I could’ve ever dreamt of.”The James Webb Telescope that can detect chemical footprints of water, methane, and oxygen in the seven atmospheres will be launched in 2018.

While there is much to learn about ourselves and the earth from deep space exploration, earth and space scientists are concerned about how the knowledge will be applied to environmental protection under the new presidential administration.

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Other Planets?