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Episode 08: Milky Way Marvels: TRAPPIST 1

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the Moon, the Sun, and all the other things we know about our solar system that we were taught since we were kids. But, now? I'm hyped about...TRAPPIST 1?? Have you ever heard of it? Everyone I asked that question in prepping for this episode gave me 2 answers. And let me just say that one of those answers was NOT a yes. To the question of: 'Have you heard of Trappist 1', I got either: No, or: Tr..Tra..trappist 1??(sigh) But, thats okay! I'm not gonna let you kill my buzz because hey, you don't know what you don't know until you know it and then you know it. So let ME hopefully get YOU hyped about: Trapezius one.


Welcome to Milky Way Marvels, an ongoing series in which we explore various wonders of our galaxy. Like many of you I don't really pay attention to space discovery. I mean I do but I don't. Like, I love astronomy but I don't hardcore follow it. But sometimes a new discovery hits my eyes or ears and it really catches my attention and that's what happened with Trappist-1. One of the things that really gets me hyped is when new discoveries are announced. But not just any discovery, mainly the announcements of new planets especially #exoplanets. A what planet? X O planet? Like, hug kiss planet?? I wish. Earth needs to be a planet of xo xo right about now. But no, in this case it's an exo planet.

An exoplanet is an #extrasolar planet. A #planet orbiting a different star than our sun. Pretty much a planet outside of our solar system.

At this moment there are more than four thousand known exoplanets and there are thousands of others that are unconfirmed and require further study, meaning we think they exist we just need to stare at them more. Scientists say that in the milky way galaxy they are in fact more planets than there are stars! Crazy! But i guess when you think about it our solar system has one star, the sun, but has nine planets, so i guess i can see how that can be the case. Kinda like in my house I'm outnumbered four to one except in this case they are the stars and I'm just a, a gas giant. So how are exoplanets discovered? i mean i can't just get some binoculars, go outside and be very, very, very still...and very very patient and, not blink, and finally catch sight of a planet dot around a dot of light in the night sky. Here is Doctor Pamela Gay, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and, the podcast: #Astronomycast, along with Fraser Cain, explaining a few methods on how exoplanets are found.

"So the ways that finding planets today range from purposeful to, huh there's a planet. And i just love the fact that we're now accidentally finding planets. So it just like when we had this first conversation you can find planets by looking at bright stars using high resolution spectrographs and looking for the little tiny motions that are indicative of a planet slowly moving its star around the mutual center of mass. And the amount of motion that we seeing, you could run faster than these stars are moving. It's not a huge movement and this is where you need bright stars that we can really spread their light out we can make really accurate measurements of what's called the radial velocity, it's the rate at which the star is moving towards us and away from us. Now in order to find planets using radial velocity method you need to have a planet that is passing between us and the star it can be a little higher, a little lower than the stars. So this method allows you to find stars that are transiting and that would transit if only they were closer to their star, or their angle was tilted just a little bit more. It does not let us find the planets that are going around the star in the plane in the sky relative to us...."

Don't stop now. You can listen to this in it's entirety here, or in your favorite app here.


Cover image by: NASA/J.P.L.

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