Out of This World

Space+astronaut

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Space astronaut

Zainy Tareen, Staff Writer

Everyone waited impatiently, shifting small bags filled with personal items, from hand to hand.The intercom called out names, letting people know when they were able to move forward onto the spaceship. After a few minutes, Ella’s name was called and she put together her things and walked towards the doors. The air around her got colder as she got closer to the entrance realizing this might be the last time she would ever be on Earth.

Many believe travel to another planet can only happen in movies but today’s discoveries can make it reality. On Feb 22, National Aeronautics and Space Administration held a press conference in Washington D.C. confirming the discovery of seven Earth like planets. The planets are 40 light years away, orbiting a dwarf like star called TRAPPIST-1. The planets have rocky surfaces and can potentially hold water. All the planets closely orbit together putting three of them be in the habitable zone. The discovery was made by a network of telescopes by NASA, making this discovery one of the best in history.

The discovery took everyone by shock, as no one expected TRAPPIST-1 to have planets. “It’s very exciting to add several more Earth-sized planets to the list of exoplanets” said Robert Rosenberg, a Round Lake High School science teacher.  The planets orbit very closely to their star, TRAPPIST-1, but because it is an ultra-cool dwarf star, it doesn’t radiate much heat. The star is young, not like our sun that’s been alive for trillions of years. When TRAPPIST-1 was found, it didn’t receive much attention because people believed it was just another common star. After some time, the telescope TRAPPIST, the name used to name the star, caught glimpses of shadows, which were actually the planets passing in front of the star, making quick eclipses. The scientists first believed there were only two planets, but the Spitzer Space Telescope caught five more.

When the other planets were found, scientists were happy to say there is reason to believe the planets hold water. Scientists believe that TRAPPIST-1e, f and g are planets that might even possess oceans and life forms because they are in the perfect habitable zone. The zone is the spot that isn’t too cold nor too hot.

“If there are living organisms, I would want to meet them and I hope they could benefit us,” said Ashley Martinez, a sophomore at RLHS. She was surprised to hear about the seven new planets, but also happy because she has always wanted to get out in space. Because the distance of TRAPPIST-1 is 40 light years away, it might take time or reach them. For now, scientists can only use space telescopes to understand these new exoplanets. At the conference about TRAPPIST-1, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Science Mission Director said “Now, finding another Earth isn’t a matter of if but when,” he said.

To prove the existence of water, a telescope will be launched in 2018 called the James Webb telescope. The telescope will have the power to fly by planet’s atmospheres and collect components and substances that will then be sent to NASA.“The Webb telescope will also have the capability to analyze a planet’s temperatures and surface pressures,” said Rosenberg.

Therefore, TRAPPIST-1 opens new opportunities for science, giving us opportunity to believe there might be another existence. Maybe one day humans can be able to get on a spaceship and visit these new planets. Until that day, humanity can hope and expect more great discoveries because the Earth is like a drop in a limitless ocean.