The planets may be “tidally locked” to their star, gravitationally held in place so only one side of the worlds face their sun. If so, the planets could host truly alien weather patterns, with strong winds and extreme changes in temperature.
But it is not yet known whether any of the planets host an atmosphere or liquid water and additional observations are planned, along with expanded studies to look for planets around other dwarf stars.
Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelley, who set a U.S. endurance record with a nearly year-long stay in space, greeted the discovery with enthusiasm. “This is awesome! Send me!” he tweeted. And he offered some idea of just how far away the TRAPPIST-1 system is — a distance of almost 40 light-years — when he added, “Be there in 800,000 years w our current propulsion technology. More work to do. Let’s get on it!”