Last month NASA announced the discovery of TRAPPIST 1 Star System which consists of seven planets orbiting around a star, being located at 39 light-years from the Sun. The newly revealed planetary system represents a ray of hope for humankind, not only because it is close to our Sun, but because there are three planets there which are similar to ours.
Scientists indicated that these planets are to be found in the habitable area where liquid water could be supported. Thus, if there is liquid water, then there might exist some forms of life. Nevertheless, irrespective of how amazing this discovery is, we may still wonder how these planets look like and how their sun looks like, and all sorts of such questions.
We need to keep in mind the idea that these planets were only spotted by using the transit method. This method helps scientists measure the dips which are visible in the light output of a star while a planetary object passes right in front of our line of sight. Even if there were a lot of enthusiastic artists who rushed into drawing their concepts of how these planets and their sun could look like, we were not a provided with a clear view of the TRAPPIST 1 star system.
However, on March 8th, NASA has released the first capture of the TRAPPIST 1 system. Even if this is not the image we were hoping for, it only indicates that we are a step closer to learning more about this outstanding star system. What is more, NASA also released all the uncalibrated information for observations of TRAPPIST 1 star system.
The data were gathered starting with December 15, 2016, until March 4, 2017, namely 74 days. The Kepler spaceship of NASA engaged in this task of collecting formation as part of the K2 mission which is currently under development. Kepler managed to measure the dimming star of the new star system as its seven planets crossed in front of it, blocking some of the light. That is why in the material provided pixels flicker due to planets that block the light.
NASA scientists hope to be able to use Kepler to determine the orbital periods of the planets in the new star system and the dynamics of their star.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia