scientist who helped NASA discover 7 Earth-like planets
George Helou is a leading scientist at NASA.
"Like many astronomers, I was captivated by the stars at a tender age. Over the mountains of Lebanon the skies were dark, the stars intense, and the Milky Way mesmerizing. The fascination slowly turned into a career path as Math and Physics became increasingly fun topics, books promised infinite vistas of discovery, and college at the American University of Beirut brought me into modern physics and closer to graduate school." These are the words of George Helou, a Lebanese astronomer who is the Executive Director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), Deputy Director of the Spitzer Science Center and Director of the NASA Herschel Science Center, as taken from his online Caltech Spitzer profile.
Helou – one of the leading scientists at NASA, whose work proved instrumental in the space agency's latest finding – spoke to local media in the wake of the news of the "Trappist-1 discovery": the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star.
At only 39.5 light-years from the Sun, the dwarf star's discovery – which is located in constellation Aquarius – alongside its seven orbiting planets is being heralded as a major step forward in the search for alien life. "Spitzer played a leading role and my center enabled its use, which ultimately helped us get the needed results," Helou told MTV Lebanon. "This is the first time we find a system that contains 6 or 7 planets that resemble the Earth in size and composition ... they may contain water, and maybe even life, we hope." Spitzer – formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility – is an infrared space telescope launched in 2003. It enabled the discovery of five extra planets after the initial finding was made by the Belgian operated Trappist telescope in Chile, which lends its name to the system.
This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Helou grew up in Lebanon and attended college at the American University of Beirut, before leaving for the U.S., where he earned his Ph.