The star system TRAPPIST-1, located 39 light years away, has completely captured the imagination of the public over the past 24 hours, thanks to the discovery of seven Earth-scale planets in orbit around the small red dwarf star.
The revelation that such an abundance of worlds, some of which may be habitable, are located so close to our own solar neighborhood is a major win for exoplanet research, and has inspired a fresh wave of interest in visiting vistas beyond our solar system.
On Twitter, many people shared their hopes of one day traveling to the TRAPPIST-1 system to behold its wealth of terrestrial planets up close.
Unfortunately, humans have not yet cracked the nut of how to achieve interstellar travel (though we've got some good brains working on it). In the meantime, scientists and artists have collaborated on stunning concept animations so that we can, at least, get some sense of what it might be like to embark on an adventure to this tantalizing star system.
The animations are based on information captured by specialized telescopes as the TRAPPIST-1 planets crossed in front of their star from our perspective on Earth. These transits cause the star to dim slightly, and that tiny dip in brightness helps scientists estimate planetary size, orbital distance, and even glean some details about the planets' atmospheres. The finer properties shown in the animations, like surface features, are speculation at this point.
Let's start with this short video from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which visualizes the trip from Earth to TRAPPIST-1. Buckle up.
Once you've arrived at the system, you'll probably want to take a look around before choosing a place to settle in. ESO has you covered on that point too, with this overview of the system, positioned above the innermost planet TRAPPIST-1b.
You can also view this perspective in virtual reality, if you prefer to take in the sights from all available angles.
Finally, for those who want to experience what it might be like to actually set foot on one of these planets, NASA has released a virtual reality concept animation set on TRAPPIST-1d, which may have liquid water on its surface.
The newly discovered world is shown bathed in dim, crepuscular light, illuminating surface features sculpted by rock and ice. Its sibling planets orbit so tightly around their host star that they are plainly visible in the skies, against the wider backdrop of stars beyond the system—including our Sun.
No wonder so many people are already gunning to move to the TRAPPIST-1 neighborhood. Not only does it boast more Earth-sized worlds than any known solar system, the views are completely enchanting.
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