Sarah Kaplan on one of the most "holy shit" discoveries in recent years:
The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultracool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of the sun and about a quarter as warm.
Yep, that's an "ultracool dwarf" with a name connected to beer. What's not to like so far...
Whatever secrets it may harbor, the TRAPPIST-1 system will surely be a sight to behold. Though the star is small, its nearness to the planets means that, from their perspective, it appears about three times as large as our sun. The outermost planets enjoy the daily spectacle of their neighbors passing across the sky and in front of their shared sun, each world a large dark spot silhouetted against the salmon-colored star. Its dim glow, which skews toward the red and infrared end of the light spectrum, bathes the planets in warmth and paints their skies with the crimson hues of a perpetual sunset.
What a fantastic last sentence.
The fact the planets are in orbital resonance also suggests that they formed farther out from their sun and then migrated inward, Gillon said. This makes it more likely that they will contain water in some form, since water and other volatile compounds (molecules that readily turn to gas) tend to concentrate on the outer edges of solar systems.
Coincidentally, TRAPPIST-1 is located in the constellation Aquarius — the water bearer.
Boom. Interstellar mic drop.Read more...