Expanding Our Universe: NASA Announces Discovery of 7 Exoplanets


Garrett Cichello, Staff Writer

On 2/22, NASA surprised the world by announcing the discovery of 7 new exoplanets orbiting a nearby dwarf star. The agency held a press conference to discuss the discovery and share the exciting news with the nation.
The Spitzer Space telescope, a high orbit infrared telescope dedicated to searching for new celestial bodies, recently discovered the 7 planets orbiting around the dwarf star, now called Trappist-1. Trappist-1 is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf star, roughly 92% smaller than our sun. Three of the planets orbit Trappist in what is known as the Goldilocks belt, a certain zone where the light and temperature are similar to Earth, which opens up the possibility for life. The discovery included a 500 day observation mission completed by the Spitzer telescope. During this time, the telescope watched the system, gathered data on planet size, position, orbit shape and orbital rates. NASA has now dedicated the Hubble telescope to surveying 4 of the planets. Hubble will spend the coming months gathering information on atmospheric conditions as well as planetary features. NASA predicts that within the next decade, they will have an accurate depiction of the planets features.
The Trappist star offers many new opportunities to learn more about the possibility for life on other planets as well. The Trappist system is unique in how close the plates orbit to the star. The dwarf stars ultra-cool temperature means that it has a much longer lifespan than that of a larger star such as our Sun and also means that water can exist on the planets despite their proximity to the star. Many other agencies and terrestrial telescopes have turned their attention to the Trappist system, eager to aid in the discovery process.
Discoveries of this magnitude lead to mass collaborations between the space agencies of the world. Nations are eager to pool their resources to further their knowledge and the discovery of the Trappist system is no exception. The telescope that discovered the Trappist system is owned by Belgium and is located in the mountains of Chile. NASA is also working to again put Americans in space with the help of the Russian and Chinese space agency. Space exploration offers a global project that bands people together and with the discovery of Trappist -1, there is bound to be more.