Introduction: Battle of the Exoplanets (02:20)
Planet hunters are searching far beyond our solar system for exoplanets, and thousands of these alien worlds have been found. This is the story of TRAPPIST-1, a solar system containing seven Earth-sized planets that is located 40 light years away.
How to Find Exoplanets (03:19)
Chile’s Very Large Telescope can spot planets the size of Jupiter, but Earth-sized planets are more difficult to find. NASA astronomer Natasha Batalha explains how astronomers locate planets by measuring changes in the brightness of stars and why they are easier to spot when orbiting red dwarf stars.
Not That Type of Trappist (02:42)
TRAPPIST stands for Transiting Planets and Planetisimals Small Telescope. The revolutionary device can be operated remotely using laptop, as Belgian planet hunter Michael Gillon demonstrates. He uses the telescope to search the night sky for potentially inhabitable Earth-sized planets.
Groundbreaking Find (06:47)
Astronomer Pascale Hepbomb recalls the 8.3-magnitude earthquake that nearly derailed the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 on Sept. 15, 2015. Gillon relives the moment he observed a transit signal from 40 light years away. Astronomer Sean Carey describes the capabilities of the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Imagining TRAPPIST-1 (04:17)
English retiree Michael Whiting recalls the month he spent building a mechanical scale model, or orrery, of the newly discovered system. Gillon describes how the planets might appear from neighboring worlds, and Harvard professor Avi Loeb speculates regarding surface conditions.
Danger Zone (03:37)
As well as scorching the inner planets from above, the red dwarf star also generates incredibly powerful magnetic fields. Dr. Kristina Kislyakova explains how this invisible force can actually cause the planets located closest to the star to heat up from the inside. She envisions oceans of magma.
Temperate Zone (02:59)
Planets TRAPPIST-1d and TRAPPIST-1e likely get a similar amount of heat from their star as Earth does from the Sun. To find out how similar they really are to our world, NASA’s John Kerry and other scientists are striving to discover more about these planets.
Frigid Zone (03:55)
The outermost planets have a low enough density to have water in some form. To find out if they're all just frozen ice balls, scientists need to know another crucial detail. Alexandria Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology creates alien skies in her laboratory.
Harmonious Planets (06:07)
The unremarkable TRAPPIST-1 star has seven extraordinary worlds, of which at least three may have thick atmospheres and liquid water on their surfaces. Could these worlds harbor life? Astrophysicist Matt Russo explains why the compactness of the system should (but doesn’t) spell its demise.
Possible Life in TRAPPIST-1 System (04:51)
Many of the world’s top planet hunters gather in Cambridge, England to swap tips and announce their discoveries. Their ultimate goal is to find a world with evidence of life on its surface. Solar flares may lessen the chances one exists in the TRAPPIST system.
Cause for Hope (04:33)
Astrobiologist Jack O'Malley-James wants to know if there's a way for life to survive the red dwarf’s massive flares. To find out, he studies how sea creatures on Earth cope with ultraviolet radiation. Coral reefs may provide important clues regarding possible life in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
Future Search for Life (06:00)
Detecting signs of life on an Earth-sized exoplanet is not yet possible; but that is about to change in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Dr. Julien Milli is preparing for a project to build the largest optical telescope on Earth.
Credits: Battle of the Exoplanets (00:32)
Credits: Battle of the Exoplanets
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