IATE Term of the Week: Exoplanet

February 24, 2017 12:09 pm

Is there life beyond the solar system?

On 22th of February 2017, NASA announced the exciting discovery of seven Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting nearby TRAPPIST-1, a small star in the constellation of Aquarius at less than 40 light-years from Earth.

What is an exoplanet? According to the Oxford Dictionary, an exoplanet is a planet which orbits a star outside the solar system.

ExoplanetThis newly discovered planetary system is located in a temperate zone with temperature ranging from 0 to 100C, which means that the planets might have liquid water. This increases the likelihood of planetary habitability, i.e. presence of forms of life.

In May 2016, astronomers firstly reported evidence of the existence of three new planets. The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in the Chilean desert recorded shadows casted by the planets while crossing the face of the star. To investigate on this extraordinary discovery, NASA launched the Spitzer infrared telescope, which not only confirmed the existence of two out of these three planets but also spotted five additional ones.

The European Research Council (ERC), organisation established by the European Commission, proudly shared its involvement in this discovery. The ERC granted funds to the Belgian astrophysicist Michaël Gillon and his international team to conduct such an ambitious research. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation highlighted the EU support during a press release of the ERC: “This ground-breaking discovery shows that international collaboration and the crucial support from European Commission take us closer to one of the most fascinating quests – to find life beyond our solar system. Congratulations to Belgian Michaël Gillon and his international team. Thanks to the EU funding through the European Research Council, he has paved the way to this revolutionary discovery.”

The discovery of TRAPPIST-1 system is just the beginning: NASA announced the deployment of a new telescope, the James Webb Space, which will be launched in 2018. Characterised by higher sensitivity and precision, the James Webb Space will be able to detect presence of atmosphere components in order to establish if the Trappist-1 planetary system is indeed a habitable environment.

The following screenshot shows exoplanet entry in IATE- the term base for EU terminology:


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Written by Giulia Mattoni – Terminology trainee at DG TRAD, Terminology Coordination Unit


  • ERC, Projects behind exoplanets discovery, Press Release. Available at: http://bit.ly/2l6N89U (Accessed: 24 February 2017).
  • Northon, K. (2017) NASA telescope reveals record-breaking Exoplanet discovery. Available at: http://go.nasa.gov/2msg0KC (Accessed: 24 February 2017).
  • Oxford Dictionary. (2017) Available at: http://bit.ly/2l6ExnH (Accessed: 24 February 2017).
  • Sample, I. (2017) Exoplanet discovery: Seven earth-sized planets found orbiting nearby star. Available at: http://bit.ly/2lRnkmF (Accessed: 24 February 2017).

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