No other known star system contains such large numbers of Earth-sized and probably rocky planets, scientists say.
Scientists say that TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star, it is 10 times smaller and 2.5 times cooler than our own sun. Interestingly, scientists say Trappist-1 is more comparable to Jupiter than to the sun.
Trappist-1 Our best shot at alien life
The newly found alien system is located a ‘mere’ 39 lightyears away from Earth, or approximately 229 trillion miles-369 trillion kilometers. According to reports, it would take 39 years to get there traveling at the speed of light. However, no spacecraft ever built can travel anywhere near that fast.
To understand just how long it would take to get to Trappist-1, and visit our ‘potential’ alien neighbours, space.com writes that New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft ever launched by man, which flew past Pluto in 2015 and is currently traveling out of the solar system at 14.31 kilometers per second, or about 32,000 mph, according to NASA’s New Horizons tracking page, would need about 317,000 years to reach TRAPPIST-1.
However, one spacecraft managed to fly even faster than the New Horizons probe. NASA’s Juno spacecraft hit a top speed of about 165,000 mph (265,000 km/h) relative to Earth, making it the fastest human-made object ever (though New Horizons’ initial speed was faster than Juno’s speed after launch).
No day and night
Curiously, scientists say that due to the fact the planets are so close to their sun, and not far apart from one another, the alien worlds are “tidally locked.” This means that the amount of time it takes a body to orbit matches the length of one rotation on its axis.
So what does this mean? Well, the result is that the same side of the body always faces the object it orbits around. In comparison, Earth’s moon is tidally locked with our planet, which is why we always see the same face of our satellite when we look up at night.
As reported by the Washington post, “for the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, this means that one side of each body is constantly blasted with their sun’s heat, while the other sides are perpetually in darkness. This … doesn’t sound very homey. It could create huge temperature gradients that drive powerful winds. It could mean that half of each planet freezes while the other half burns.”
The above video details the system of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star. Over 21 days, Spitzer measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone where liquid water might be found.
This animation visualizes the change in light as each planet passes in front of its star. The study established the planets’ size, distance from their sun and, for some of them, their approximate mass and density. It also established that some, if not all, of these planets are tidally locked, meaning one face of the planet permanently faces their sun.