Snow dwarf and the seven worlds

The biggest news in planetary exploration came out in February when astronomers announced that the TRAPPIST-1 system contained 7 terrestrial (Earth-sized) planets in orbit around their ultra-cool dwarf star, a little less than 40 light-years from Terra Firma.

Named for the telescope that discovered the first 3 worlds in 2015 (the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetIsmals Small Telescope) operated by the University of Liege, Belgium, the system ultimately owes its name to another Belgian source of pride, the strong ales brewed by Trappist monks, some of which was used in celebration over the discovery.

Seven big maybe-blue marbles, rolling around a tiny sun the size of Jupiter.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has an interest as well, with the Spitzer Space Telescope providing the evidence for the latest 4 TRAPPIST planets.  In recognition, the Exoplanet Travel Bureau has prepared a tourist poster to get people excited about a visit to TRAPPIST-1.  And a short visit can still last “years”. With orbits ranging from 1.5 to 18.5 days, the years really fly by in the TRAPPIST system.

Island-hopping in Hawai’i, or planet-hopping in TRAPPIST-1. Decisions, decisions! Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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