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Out of This World

Grace Lytle, Staff

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On February 21, NASA held a press conference about its discovery of seven planets in a solar system, three of which are considered “in the habitable zone”. The discovery was made my NASA’s craft, the Kepler. This means that there are strong possibilities that these could contain water sources, and maybe life. The planets are located 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, away from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius. They are calling the system TRAPPIST-1, named after The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope tool in Chile.

NASA has said that it is likely, based on the densities of the new planets, that the all of the planets have rocky surfaces. Further studies are being done by NASA to discover if any of these planets have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh planet has not been determined yet; scientists think that it could be an “icy, snowball-like” world, but has not been decided.

These planets are the closest we have discovered to Earth’s solar system. However, the new TRAPPIST-1 planets are much closer to their star than our system. In fact, their furthest planet is closer to their star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets are much closer together as well, as it is likely that a person standing on the surface of one of these planets could see clouds or geological features of neighboring planets. They are projected to be closer together than Earth is to the moon. Another possible thought of this new system is that the planets could be potentially tidally locked to the star. This means that the same side of the planet is always facing the star. So, depending on what side of the planet you are on, it is either always day or always night. This could affect the weather patterns, and make them very different from Earth. These could include strong winds and extreme temperature shifts, just to name a few.

All in all, these planets could, or could not, hold the future. Is alien life real? Are they ordinary people in an alternate world? These planets still hold many mysteries, and we are excited to see what the future studies will tell us.

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Out of This World