This astronomer's poem beautifully explains the monumental discovery of 7 Earth-sized planets

Trappist 1 exoplanet ice water habitable eso1615aESO/M. KornmesserAn artist’s impression of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system.

Seven rocky, Earth-size planets have been found circling TRAPPIST-1, a red dwarf star about the size of Jupiter.

A few of the worlds might even be habitable.

The monumental discovery has prompted scientists to launch a website for the planetary system — and yes, it has an equally monumental domain:

Researchers inspired by the new planetary system, which is about 39 light-years from Earth, are using to publish fiction, artwork, and even poetic prose about it.

One poem by Sean Raymond, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux who co-authored a study in Nature about the planetary system, caught our eye.

Called “Ode to 7 orbs“, it beautifully explains the discovery and importance of TRAPPIST-1’s seven planets.

Raymond gave Business Insider permission to share his work, which we’ve reproduced here with a few illustrative additions.

'Ode to 7 orbs'

Wake up now people, I've got some big news!

You won't want to miss this. You don't want to snooze

We just found some planets while we were stargazing

Gather 'round, listen up. These ones are amazing!


And it's not just one new planet. There are seven!

All orbiting one star up there in the heavens.

(With seven planets it still goes to eleven…)


The thing 'bout this system that just makes us squeal,

All seven are Earth-sized. Now, that's a big deal!

And four of those planets could have the conditions

For liquid water! (based on their positions)

'How did you find these new planets?' you ask

Well, let me first say it was no easy task

To start off, we made a long list of stars.


We measured their brightness again and again

Most of the stars just looked awfully boring

They stayed the same brightness. They weren't worth exploring.

The ones we were looking for had little blips

Their brightness stayed constant except for small dips

Each dip is a planet that, just as it passes

In front of the star, blocks some light from our glasses

The brightness we measure goes blip every time

The planet goes once around. Then it re-aligns.

(Another way that you can think of the dips:

Each blip is like a single tiny eclipse)

Courtesy of Nature

Armed with the star's brightness, we measured and figured

How big are the planets and how they're configured.

This new star with planets is called TRAPPIST-1

It's not a star that is at all like the Sun

It's much much much smaller, and also less hot

Two thousand times fainter. (Now that is a lot).

An 'ultracool dwarf' star they call it. And hey,

It's just about 40-odd light years away.


The planets have letters for names. Now, you see,

From outside to in it's h, g, f, e, d,

And, yes, as you guessed, after that, c and b

(The first one's called b. There is no planet a.

The 'a' is reserved for the star, by the way).

All seven planets are close to their star.

They orbit real fast since they're not very far

Planet b's year: one and a half Earth days.

If you lived there you'd have all sorts of birthdays!

Stand on a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system

Oh, the planets you'd see in the sky -- you can't miss 'em!

Their orbits are so close that they'd each appear

As big as the full Moon! Bigger when they're near.

(Imagine the werewolf problem they must fear!)

The Sun in the sky would stay in the same place.

The planets always show the star the same face

The planets would shift and sometimes look like crescents

A peek at that sky's like an antidepressant!

IoA/Amanda Smith

The two inner planets, planets b and c.

Are too hot for oceans. Water would be steam.

But the next four planets: d, e, f, and g

Are all at about the right place for a sea.

They could have liquid water, although

We don't know if they even have H2 or O.

There's plenty of planets out there that are dry

Just look at that big red dot up in Earth's sky.

That's Mars, it's got water but only a trace

And Venus, of course, is a hot hot dry place

IoA/Amanda Smith

The planets' orbits were not set by chance

They seem to be following a cool cosmic dance

Take for example planets d and e

When e completes two orbits, d has done three.

They meet up again at the very same place

This orbital resonance is common in space.

Each pair of planets is in resonance. So,

It's like the whole system is doing a tango!

We think that a resonant configuration

Is a signpost of the planets' migration

That means that the planets' orbits shifted

While they were forming, inward they drifted.

One last cool thing I really want to say-o

TRAPPIST-1's actually linked with Galileo!

He discovered Jupiter's four big old moons

That you can see with good binoculars too.

The TRAPPIST-1's planets are much farther out

But take about the same time to go around.

Now let's wrap up with a ditty for later

It's written for you if you're a planet hater

'Planets', you say, 'no big deal. There's a zillion.

Eight in our Solar System and a billion

In orbit around other stars in the sky

Why should I care about this one little guy?'

Getty Images

I'd answer your question with a look back at history

Discovering new planets may help solve a big mystery.

Are we all alone? Is there other smart life?

(Do I have an alien doppelganger and wife?)

It's not at all simple. But here's a suggestion

Any life out there will need its own planet

Maybe with oceans or ice caps or granite.


We now have the telescopes, tools and techniques

To find other planets and take a sneak peak

To try to find out if the Earth is unique.

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