If your favorite social media outlet is anything like mine, you undoubtedly got blasted yesterday by news of NASA's new discovery of 7 planets orbiting a nearby sun (if you can truly call 40 light years as "nearby").
The parent star, coined Trappist-1, is a red-dwarf. Its planets were detected with the Spitzer Space Telescope using a method known as "primary transit." Of the 7 planets found, three lie in the "habitable zone," which is the area around the orbit of a star that gives it the best opportunity to host extraterrestrial life.
Truthfully, to astronomers, the discovery of "exoplanets," or planets that orbit other stars, is commonplace with close to 3500 such discoveries to date. In fact, to date, there have been 577 multi-planet discoveries according to the NASA Exoplanet Archive (http://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/).
But what is truly interesting about the Trappist-1 system is that such a multi-planet discovery within a single solar system, where several have life-sustaining possibilities, is something unique. It gives rise to the notion that life might be more abundant in the universe than once thought. The thought of this is both breathtaking and mind-boggling!
For us at the CAS Initiative, it just validates what we have been saying all along, that we are living in a day when such discoveries are increasingly plentiful and exciting! Moreover, it is the type of science that is accessible to the equipment amateur astronomers currently employ; discoveries that can (and have) been made by amateurs. It has been shown repeatedly that it doesn't take a space telescope to find exoplanets.
In other words, it does not take NASA to make such a discovery!
If Mansfield ISD students were so equipped, as they would be within our curriculum programs, they could have been the talk of yesterday's news!