An Update on the Potential Habitability of TRAPPIST-1. No Aliens yet, but We’ve Learned a lot.

An Update on the Potential Habitability of TRAPPIST-1.  No Aliens yet, but We’ve Learned a lot.
read more

One year ago, I wrote an article about the remarkable discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, a system of seven temperate terrestrial planets orbiting an ultra-cool red dwarf star. This was an enormous astronomical discovery because these low-mass stars are the most numerous ones in our galaxy, and the discovery of potentially habitable planets around one of them led many people to speculate about the existence of life there and elsewhere in our galaxy around similar stars.

This announcement also inspired a lot of additional studies by astronomers worldwide, who have used additional instruments and run complex models to better understand this planetary system and its potential for hosting life.

One year later, it seems to me that the time is right to give you an update on what we’ve learned about this planetary system, which is located only 41 light-years from Earth.

AI as a Tool for Planetary Defense: How a Computer Could Help Us Make the Right Decisions When Facing An Asteroid Threat

Last May, a diverse group of astronomers, space agency executives, government representatives, and theorists who study tsunamis and asteroid impacts met for a week in Tokyo to discuss the state of planetary defense.  This group also included a few members of the NASA’s Frontier Development Lab (FDL), an applied research accelerator, aims to foster collaboration between AI experts  and planetary researchers expressly for the purpose of finding solutions to NASA global challenges, including Planetary Defense.

Gigantic Earth Globe at the Miraikan Museum (Credit: F. Marchis)

Intriguing pair of satellites caught with the eVscope

If you often look at the evening dark sky in a clear area far away from the city, you have probably seen a speck of light which moves with respect to the star, that’s probably a distant satellite that shines because it reflects the light of the sun at high altitude. According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program office, there are an  about 21,000 large debris (>10 cm) and satellites orbiting around Earth right now, so much more than you can see with your naked eye.

The eVscope is designed to pinpoint and image Deep Sky Objects (nebulae, galaxies), but we have already shown its potential to observe dwarf planet like Pluto, as well as asteroid like Florence. Because the telescope can image targets as faint as those astronomical bodies, we thought that it will also be able to image small satellites and debris as well passing serendipitously in the field of view. This is what happened a few days ago.

Animation made of 8 frames recorded with the eVscope showing the detection of two satellites
Animation made of 8 frames recorded with the eVscope showing the detection of two satellites

Unistellar Signs Up More Than 1,200 Early-adopters for its Revolutionary eVscope Confirming the Public Interest for Citizen Science Astronomy

Unistellar Signs Up More Than 1,200 Early-adopters for its Revolutionary eVscope Confirming the Public Interest for Citizen Science Astronomy

San Francisco & Marseille, November 9, 2017. Unistellar, a startup that’s committed to restore the joy of night-sky viewing to people all over the globe, is off to a strong start thanks to the massive success of its recent Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign gave supporters the opportunity to order an eVscope, a revolutionary, electronics-based telescope that offers unprecedented views of distant objects in the night sky. The device also allows users to make significant contributions to science by joining observing efforts led by prominent astronomers.

M82r logo

A few more pictures of astronomical targets seen with the eVscope

We got a lot of requests for additional pictures of astronomical targets taken with the eVscope. Here some of them taken recently. One nebula, one galaxy, one planet in our solar system and our moon…. Enjoy!

The Omega Nebula (catalogued as Messier 17 or M17) is an H II region in the constellation Sagittarius.
The Omega Nebula (catalogued as Messier 17 or M17) is an H II region in the constellation Sagittarius. Magnification x50
M82r logo
Cigar Galaxy (or M82) is a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major . Magnification x100.

It’s Official! The eVscope from Unistellar Gets Kickstarted

Marseille, France & San Francisco, CA – October 25, 2017 –

Imagine being able to see galaxies, nebulae, and asteroids and discovering the sky from your own backyard while participating in scientific investigations. Unistellar has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its eVscope, a powerful telescope that will give the sky back to all of us.

The Unistellar eVscope was first presented at the CES in 2017 and recently won the Innovation Award in the Tech For a Better World product category for the CES 2018.

Sidewalk Astronomy at Pier 17 in San Francisco on October 24 2017

See the universe from Pier 17 in San Francisco with Unistellar eVscope! SETI Institute astronomer Franck Marchis will be there to demo the prototype.

Join us on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, starting at 7:30 pm at Pier 17 (the building adjacent to Pier 15 the Exploratorium). We will share views through our evScope and other telescopes of nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, double stars, and other objects visible in the night sky (weather permitted of course).

(c) Thierry Cohen
(c) Thierry Cohen

Check our Facebook  and Twitter social media pages for regular updates during the evening.