Building the World

Watcher of the Skies


TRAPPIST-1, impression by ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger. Image: wikimedia.

The first known system of seven Earth-sized planets clustered around a single star, much like our solar system, has been discovered. It’s name? TRAPPIST-1, a salute to spotting telescope in Chile. Three of the exo-planets (nomenclature indicating an orbit around a star, not a sun) are in what NASA terms the ‘habitable zone.’ All seven possess potential for water. On March 13, 1781, Sir William Herschel announced a new planet, the first discovered by telescope. Keats included Uranus in this poem:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been,
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

– John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

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Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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