Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Science Updates


TRAPPIST-1 is a system of seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star about 120 light-years away. The star, and hence its system of planets, is thought to be between five-to-ten billion years old, up to twice as old as our own solar system.


Galaxies with extremely high rates of star formation (from hundreds to thousands of solar-masses worth of stars per year) are rare. Our Milky Way, for example, makes only about one star a year. The process of star formation heats up dust to emit in the infrared, and extreme starburst galaxies that make this many per year shine so brightly they can be spotted at cosmological distances.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a "research institute" of the Smithsonian Institution. It is joined with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Because these research activities share Harvard and Smithsonian staff and resources, the links at this website will take you to information posted on the "CfA" pages.