What’s so amazing about the TRAPPIST-1 discovery?

Nathalie Ouellette
15 March 2017

On February 22, 2017, I did an interview with CBC television about the TRAPPIST-1 discover.

You can watch it here.

Above: An artist’s impression of the view from the surface one of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system (ESO/M. Kornmesser, Wikimedia Commons)

On February 22, 2017, NASA announced that the Spitzer Space Telescope had located a system of at least seven rocky planets orbiting an ultra cool dwarf star. This planetary system is called TRAPPIST-1.

By early 2017, astronomers had already found more than 3,500 other exoplanets. Those are planets located outside our Solar System. So what makes the TRAPPIST-1 discovery so amazing?

Well, three of the newly discovered planets are in the “habitable” or “Goldilocks” zone. That means scientists are closer than ever to finding a far-away world that could have liquid water, and maybe even life!

Want to learn more about the TRAPPIST-1 system?

Here are some of the best online sources of information:

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star (2017)
NASA Press Releases

Largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets (2017)
NASA Exoplanet Exploration

What is the Habitable Zone? (2017)
Fraser Cain, Universe Today

The 7 Earth-sized Planets of TRAPPIST-1
Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

TRAPPIST: TRansiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescopes
TRAPPIST telescope network, Université de Liège

TRAPPIST-1 Official Website
TRAPPIST-1 Discovery Team

Nathalie Ouellette

I grew up in Montreal, where both my parents work as engineers. From a young age, space fascinated me, but light pollution in the city stopped me from seeing much of the sky. So I poured myself into as many science books as I could find! I did an undergraduate degree in physics at McGill University. Then I moved to Kingston, Ontario, to pursue a PhD in astrophysics at Queen’s University. I finished my PhD in 2016, and now work as a research associate and science communicator. In my free time, you’ll find me rock climbing with my husband, doing yoga, or petting my dog!

Je suis née à Montréal. Mes parents sont tous les deux ingénieurs, et j’ai développé un intérêt pour l’espace dès un très jeune âge. Par contre, la pollution lumineuse de la ville m’empêchait de voir les étoiles, alors je me suis jetée dans les livres! J’ai reçu un baccalauréat en physique à l’Université McGill avant de déménager à Kingston, en Ontario, pour poursuivre un doctorat en astrophysique à l’Université Queen’s. J’ai obtenu mon doctorat en 2016, et travaille maintenant comme associée de recherche et vulgarisatrice scientifique. Mes passe-temps incluent faire de l’escalade avec mon mari, pratiquer le yoga et jouer avec mon chien!

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