7 new planets
On February 22nd, 2017, it was reported that there were seven more possibly habitable planets that scientists had discovered, all around a single star. According to NASA’s official website, planets are deemed habitable if they are “located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.” These newfound planets had fulfilled this criteria, with three of the seven having moderately higher chances of being livable. Though this was a fascinating discovery in the field of astronomical research, the excitement didn’t stop there; it seemed to have been lacking adequate braking systems.
In NASA’s official press release, scientists also stated that the discovery had also set a new record for the most habitable planets found around one star, aside from our solar system.
These types of planets are known as exoplanets in the scientific community; an exoplanet is defined as a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system. This specific exoplanet system, the one that scientists have just stumbled on a few weeks prior, has been deemed “TRAPPIST-1”, for “The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope” in Chile, which scientists used to scour the galaxy and locate this exoplanet system.
However, many people weren’t satisfied with NASA’s process of naming new planets, so they turned to Twitter to voice their own opinions, and launched trending hashtags to garner attention, such as the #7Namesfor7NewPlanets. NASA caught wind of this, and in good fun, picked up the hashtag and retweeted about the naming challenge. On February 24th, TIME Magazine reported that the hashtag had accumulated “quite a collection of suggestions for these alternate homelands, from the Greek versions of our solar system’s Roman planetary nomenclature to referencing Star Wars, Snow White’s dwarves, popular characters in TV and literature, and more.” Just a brief glimpse at the name suggestions that have appeared on the social media platform would prompt a surprised expression on one’s face, as there is truly an extensive variety of categories that people have used as inspirations in their naming methods.
Nevertheless, this “name game” shouldn’t distract anyone from the strikingly remarkable details about the planet that scientists are currently further researching, such as the fact that the planet lies a mere 235 trillion miles from Earth, which is apparently rather close to our solar system. To add to that, NASA has also stated, “The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.” This is an enormous point to comprehend and register into one’s mind. Upon encountering this information, a regular person may be thinking
Does this mean I have to travel across the globe to take a nap?, or maybe, Do I have more time to finish this assignment now?
If this proves to be true, it would be a huge game-changer in the way people live their day-to-day lives.
This might not be a pressing issue; having said that, a more recent article on ScienceAlert in mid-March reveals that some of these planets may not be able to accommodate humans after all, leading this roller coaster of developing news into a downward motion. Evidently, astronomers and scientists alike have observed that the planets in the solar system could have already been stripped of their atmosphere by radiation, significantly decreasing the chances of liquid water presence on their surfaces. There is a little bit of hope though, and it lies in the youth of the solar system and the excessive length of a star’s breakdown process. The article clearly states, “… researchers studying TRAPPIST-1’s spectral emissions have found evidence that the star might just be young enough to not have had time to blow away their atmospheres quite yet, meaning we can still dream of life on those far distant worlds a little longer.” Some people may see this is as a faraway light at the end of a tunnel; others may see it as a dead end and start looking for other possibly inhabitable planets. Either way, scientists will continue to delve further into their observations and their research into the planets that lie in in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system.