NASA Releases First Images Of TRAPPIST-1 System

Toby Manning
March 16, 2017

This is the longest, almost continuous set of observations of TRAPPIST-1 yet, and provides researchers with an opportunity to further study the gravitational interaction between the seven planets, and search for planets that may remain undiscovered in the system.

NASA's Kepler has been observing the TRAPPIST-1 star system including the seven potentially habitable planets and recently new data about the star and the planets had been released.

Okay, this may not be much to look at, but the pixelated animation shows the amount of light detected by each pixel in a small section of the camera on board the Kepler. It's also the public's first real look at the exciting star system, which could be orbited by at least one habitable planet.

"An Earth-size planet passing in front of a small ultra-cool dwarf star like TRAPPIST-1 creates less than a one percent dip in brightness, and is not visible with the naked eye", NASA said in a statement. This is how the Kepler telescope identifies exoplanets, and it's how the TRAPPIST-1 telescopes were able to identify the seven planets.

"Transiting planets block a tiny fraction of starlight that produces miniscule dips in the brightness of their host star".

The animation released by NASA shows the star at the center of the image and some apparent changes in the brightness of the star, but it does not clearly reveal the presence of any of the seven planets.

The team watched the star for 74 days before announcing the discovery, and the image above is the result of 60 photos, taken once a minute over an hour.

As the seven planets pass in front of their parent star, an observer on Earth will see the star's brightness dip slightly.

By and large, scientists want to study these worlds because they do qualify as some of the best possible places to search for alien life.

TRAPPIST-1 is much smaller and dimmer than our sun, so actually pinpointing the habitable area of its orbit is hard to do.

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