We live in a society that fundamentally does not appreciate space exploration. Every now and then I’ll be going about my humdrum life, probably trying to avoid eating something, and I’ll remember: Hey, didn’t they discover a planet capable of sustaining life a couple of years ago? And what about that planet we all thought was made of diamond? How many exoplanets are there, anyway? And by the time I get through all of this I usually have to go do laundry or get my ears candled or something and can no longer spare the time to wonder about the great mysteries of the cosmos.
Because of this, the recent discovery of seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system has given me mixed feelings. On the one hand: Planets! OMG! And they look almost exactly like places you could visit from Mass Effect! But as soon as I get psyched about discovering alien life, I see articles with headlines like “NASA Just Discovered Seven New Exoplanets…So What?” and start feeling dismayed. We probably won’t find out more about these planets until at least 2018 or 2019, after the James Webb Space Telescope. I know we’re all a little preoccupied these days, what with the apparent destruction of Western Civilization as we know it, but can’t we get a little bit enthusiastic about science any more?
The average person probably has this motto about astronomy: If I Can’t Get There, I Don’t Care. They’ve got too much shit to do to get worked up about every gaseous giant or ultra-cool dwarf star that comes along. Which is stupid. I know more about Inspector Gadget then I do about outer space but even I can tell this is a great discovery. So, even if I’m not exactly Carl Sagan, let me give you a brief run down of the seven planets, listed from those that seem the least interesting to the most.
(The planets, as yet, don’t have official names, and also shouldn’t be confused with the Trappist Preserves, which are delicious, if a little expensive)
Aside from having the highest mass of all of these planets, there doesn’t seem to be much of note here for non-nerds. Don’t get me wrong, of course: everything here is exciting. But when they finally draw up the Virgin Space Travel Packages this one isn’t going in your top three or even top five and you know it.
The loneliest little planet out at the end of the system suffers from Pluto Syndrome. It’s probably best not to get too attached just in case it turns out to not be a planet after all and we have to start calling in Planet TRAPPIST-1h Subplanet a Article I or something.
It might not be possible to live on this pockmarked behemoth but there’s some intrigue there. It’s got the biggest radius, it’s closest to the sun (technically star TRAPPIST-1a) and it orbits in less than two Earth days. Also, I think I read somewhere that these planets have perpetual daylight on one side and perpetual darkness on the other, which is the plot of the Roger Zelazny novel Jack of Shadows, so maybe they could name one of these planets Zelazny? Heck, maybe they could name all of them after sci-fi authors: if Harlan Ellison gets his own planet maybe he’ll finally stop threatening to sue people.
More like TRAPPIST-1dgaf, am I right? Seriously, though, this is the icy one that resembles a giant eyeball, which means it really shouldn’t be staring at the sun. It kind of reminds me of the 600 A.D. world from Chrono Trigger and an artist’s rendering showed that the sea might be covered in alien ice flows for Werner Herzog to make a depressing documentary about. Pretty neat.
At a glance, this one seems to be the most like our home planet, with a mix of water, land and atmosphere. Despite that, it still completes its orbit in just a little over 6 days, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for an Interstellar-type situation to spring up once we’ve licked the whole crossing light years thing. If there’s really an alien war fleet gunning for our sweet, sweet desecrated resources, this is probably their home base. If not: man the space ark!
What’s up with this little runt? Brownish-green with a spine of emerald spots running through it, there’s definitely a likelihood that there’s a variety of terrain here, and I’m olding out hope that it might actually be the planet Koozebane.
I know the images we’re going off of are all “artist’s renditions” but I can tell you all you need to know about 1g in two words: Green. Planet. And not just in vegetation or anything boring like that. I’m talking the kind of eerie, fascinating mix of pale and dark green that looks like something out of Jack Vance’s wet dreams. Best part is, it’s one of the more Earth-ish ones, and if there’s any remote chance of getting humans on this one then sign me up stat, and make sure the space shuttle has plenty of Sun Ra, Pink Floyd and Bjork on board for all those light-years of contemplation. Set the controls for the heart of the big green marble.