I am an astrobiologist, sci-fi geek, and professor of everything groovy. I write about science, culture, math, history, space, and science fiction. Perhaps like you, I'm seeking a greater understanding of the nature of life and asking myself why all of this really matters. Come with me, and we'll ask some questions together.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Holy Planets, Batman
The Google Doodle celebrating the TRAPPIST-1 system announcement on 22 February 2017
Hopefully you've already heard about today's announcement during a NASA press conference about the confirmation of discovery of 7 Earth-sized planets around the star TRAPPIST-1, three of which are in that star system's Goldilocks Zone for liquid water. This star system is only 39 lightyears away from Earth (coincidentally, that's 12 parsecs, so just within one good Kessel Run if you have the right ship). 39 lightyears is practically down the street in the context of our galaxy (which spans over 100,000 lightyears from one end to the other). This announcement isn't only exciting, but it also comes with a lot of implications for astrobiology. We have the capabilities right now to start observing these planets closely to look for signs of biosignatures in their atmosphere and that will only get better in the coming years (especially when the James Webb Space Telescope goes into operation). I'm still in the process of crunching out my Ph.D. dissertation, so I can't write up all of my thoughts about this incredible announcement right now, but definitely stay tuned to the exoplanet and planetary science community to see what more we can learn in the coming years about these world so close to our own.