Out Of The Blue

  It’s a Trap!

The cosmos, other galaxies, Pluto, Mars, etc; all of these have been Nasa’s concerns. However, the most important of which is finding any source of life in this wide universe. They’re not looking for E.T or Chewbacca (if you’re following the buzz, you’d know that they already found him). The kind of life Nasa is willing to discover could be some bacteria, fungus or plants that are able to grow despite the cosmos’ crucial conditions.

On the 2nd of May, 2017, a group of scientists were able to discover a cold dwarf star with sev

en planets revolving around it. (Honorable mention: Bill Nye wanted to call them by the seven dwarfs’ names) the system was then referred to as Trappist-1.  It’s located 4o light years away, with the constellation of Aquarius.

What makes it a great discovery?

Until now, 3,500 exo-planets have been discovered. However, it’s the first time to discover that much of planets at once. In addition, Trappist-1 has three planets lying in the habitable zone.

A habitable zone only means that it has an earthlike temperature (as it’s situated at a moderate distance from the dwarf star.)  As we know, temperature isn’t enough for life! Unless there’s oxygen, we can’t reckon on that.

What’s the technology behind all this?

The system was discovered using multiple of telescopes: Trappist, Spitzer, William Herschel Telescope, UKIRT and Liverpool Telescope. However, Spitzer is considered the most important of which, that’s why I’m going to talk all about it in the following article.

For now, let’s try to imagine a small marble rolling in front a high intensity torch. The marble will block a certain amount of light which could be precisely calculated by comparing the amount and intensity of light before and after the marble passes. This simple experiment depicts how Spitzer was able to detect the planets revolving around the cold dwarf.  Moreover, by calculating the amount of blocked light, scientist could also find out the type of atmosphere it has, temperature on its surface, elements it has and the compositions of its atmosphere by analyzing the light re-emitted from the planet.(every certain element has a symbolizing color in the atomic spectra)

You must now be eager to know how they discovered the cold dwarf in the first place.  Beside Spitzer, there are tens of telescopes that only act as receptors. They receive all kinds of signals, light or energy from the cosmos in order to be analyzed. By decomposing the light coming from Trappist-1, scientists were able to locate its position and know its age, type and size.



Should we pack our bags?

Unfortunately, it’d take 720,000 years to reach Trappist-1. Your dreams might have been shattered by this information, but Nasa never stops. “It’s the beginning of the discovery” as they say. They’re willing to gather more information about these planets in hope to find life and have an outlook on how habitable planets evolve.

In this mission more telescopes will be introduced: Hubble for detecting the atmospheres of Trappist-1, photometric follow-up using repurposed Kepler Satellite and the James Webb for measuring temperatures and comparing the planets’ temperatures.

In the end, Carl Sagan once said, “Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready -at last- to set sail for the stars.”




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