TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanet Orbits Turned into Music

If you’ve been following the search for our new alien overlords, you’re probably as fascinated as I am with the TRAPPIST-1 system, which astronomers say might be a great place for extraterrestrial life. It’s a pretty crowded system–seven planets closely buzzing around a tiny star all closer than Mercury is to the Sun–so the orbital mathematics are pretty complicated. New research from the University of Toronto has turned this math into music. From New Atlas:

“If you simulate the system, the planets start crashing into one another in less than a million years,” says Dan Tamayo, co-author of the study. “This may seem like a long time, but it’s really just an astronomical blink of an eye. It would be very lucky for us to discover TRAPPIST-1 right before it fell apart, so there must be a reason why it remains stable.”


Continuing that band analogy, the team decided the best way to illustrate the regularity of the TRAPPIST system was through music. The set of whole-number ratios between the planets’ orbits is remarkably similar to what makes pairs of musical notes sound pleasing to the human ear, so the team composed a little ditty, “composed” by the planets.

“Most planetary systems are like bands of amateur musicians playing their parts at different speeds,” says Russo. “TRAPPIST-1 is different; it’s a super-group with all seven members synchronizing their parts in nearly perfect time.”

You can read the specific of their methods here. Below is music made by the TRAPPIST-1 system. Coooooool.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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