Astronomers name momentous planetary discovery after beer

By now, you may have heard that NASA announced it had found seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby star, TRAPPIST-1, in February.

Considering the fact that three of these newly discovered exoplanets, located a brisk 40 light-years away from Earth, may contain liquid water and appear to be warm enough to sustain life, the discovery is kind of a big deal.

As scientists sometimes to do after making important discoveries, the Belgian astronomers who found TRAPPIST-1 and its orbiting bodies decided to name each exoplanet after something of historically great importance: beer.

Each of TRAPPIST-1's seven exoplanets was given a nickname coinciding with a Trappist brewery, taking on names like Rochefort, Orval and Westvleteren.

What constitutes a Trappist brewery, you ask?

A Trappist brewery must be located within the walls of a Trappist monastery, and the beer must be brewed either by the resident monks themselves or under their supervision, according to CNN.

Further, the brewery cannot be a profit-making venture. Income is solely meant covers living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, and whatever profit is left over must be donated to charity.

There are only 11 of these special breweries in the entire world, and, surprise -- over half of them are located in Belgium.

Trappist brewery Orval's managing director provided a comparison between the breweries and the exoplanets, saying: "For brewers the most important thing is if that they find water, because without water we cannot make beer. If they find water it is a very important thing for our brewers."

How poetic.

Learn more about TRAPPIST-1:

Images from NASA on the largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets
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Images from NASA on the largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets
This chart shows, on the top row, artist concepts of the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 with their orbital periods, distances from their star, radii and masses as compared to those of Earth. On the bottom row, the same numbers are displayed for the bodies of our inner solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit their star extremely closely, with periods ranging from 1.5 to only about 20 days. This is much shorter than the period of Mercury, which orbits our sun in about 88 days.
This poster imagines what a trip to TRAPPIST-1e might be like.
This artist's concept allows us to imagine what it would be like to stand on the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f, located in the TRAPPIST-1 system in the constellation Aquarius.
This data plot shows infrared observations by NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope of a system of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star. Over 21 days, Spitzer measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone where liquid water might be found.
The TRAPPIST-1 system contains a total of seven planets, all around the size of Earth. Three of them -- TRAPPIST-1e, f and g -- dwell in their star’s so-called “habitable zone.” The habitable zone, or Goldilocks zone, is a band around every star (shown here in green) where astronomers have calculated that temperatures are just right -- not too hot, not too cold -- for liquid water to pool on the surface of an Earth-like world. 

This artist's concept appeared on the February 23rd, 2017 cover of the journal Nature announcing that the TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. Any of these planets could have liquid water on them. Planets that are farther from the star are more likely to have significant amounts of ice, especially on the side that faces away from the star.


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