A year only lasts 9.21 days on TRAPPIST-1f, the fifth planet from the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1.
The planet, which is about the size of Earth, was found to be in the habitable zone, and might even have oceans. But we shouldn’t expect the planet — which orbits a star about the size of Jupiter some 40 light-years away — to look like Earth. Think more Star Trek.
Most of the data about this planet is too imprecise for rock-solid estimates about the planet, but the low density estimated for TRAPPIST-1f suggests that it has a “volatile-rich composition.”
“If you were on the surface of one of these planets, you would be able to see the others,” said Michael Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium and author of a Nature study of the planets. “You would see them really as we see the moon. You could see structures, it would be a wonderful view.”
So yeah, the surface of T-1f — shorthand for the planet used by astronomers — probably looks like something from science fiction. Specifically, it looks like the surface of Vulcan, the home planet of Spock that we see in Star Trek, the 1979 film:
Now, have a look at this rendering of T-1f, released on Wednesday:
They’re not so different, are they? Science fiction artists and science artists have long riffed off each other’s works and imaginations to present ideas about the unknown, and this is the latest stunning example.
The description from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech offers more detail about TRAPPIST-1f, an apparently Vulcan-like planet:
This planet is thought to be tidally locked to its star, meaning the same face of the planet is always pointed at the star. There would be a region called the terminator that perpetually divides day and night. If the night side is icy, the day side might give way to liquid water in the area where sufficient starlight hits the surface.
The rebooted Star Trek franchise also didn’t miss the opportunity to imagine Vulcan, which only reinforces the similarities to the imagined orange hue of TRAPPIST-1f:
And here’s Vulcan in the Star Trek fan film Axanar: