Scientists Name Planetary System that Could Contain the Mysteries of Alien Life After Beer

Where there is water, there could be life—and beer.

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Mar 14 2017, 5:00pm

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Within days of Saturn's ravioli-shaped moon "Pan" capturing the imagination of the Internet, astronomers made a historic announcement about three new planets around the star TRAPPIST-1.

If that name sounds familiar to you beer drinkers out there, it's because the Belgian astronomers at the University of Liège decided to name the now-seven-planet system in honor of Trappist beers brewed by monks in Belgium, which date back to the time of Galileo in the 16th century.

"TRAPPIST" technically stands for "Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope," but the team of five Belgian scientists have openly admitted that they named the telescope (which detected the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system) after their favorite beer, telling CNN, "People remember it very well because (the name) is very peculiar and that it is linked to a Belgian project."

In a similar vein, a new line of SPECULOOS (Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) telescopes will be deployed to explore stars similar to TRAPPIST-1 while also repping Belgium products—namely speculoos, the famous Belgian cookies that are used in what we largely know as "cookie butter."

But what's even cooler than the beer and cookie shoutouts is the fact that this discovery could have far-reaching (literally and figuratively) implications for the possibility of non-human life in our cosmos.

"Even back in the time of Isaac Newton, they had some belief about the existence of aliens around other stars, but it was just speculation," one of the astronomers told CNN. "We've been speculating for centuries. Now, we are going to enter the realm of scientific answers for these specific questions. That is what makes this so exciting."

Three of the seven planets in TRAPPIST-1 are thought to be able to support liquid water, meaning that they could be "habitable" for biological lifeforms like we have here on Earth. 

However, whether or not there is barley or hops for space beer on these planets remains to be seen.

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