Science

NASA discovers seven Earth-like possibly habitable planets

NASA/JPL-Caltech

We may not be alone in the universe after all. NASA has discovered a system of seven habitable planets orbiting around a single star about 40 light-years away from the Earth.

The newly found system of exoplanets, called like that as they are outside our solar system, was named TRAPPIST-1. Scientists chose the name in honor of the the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, which was the first to discover three of the planets in the system in May 2016. Now, in addition to confirming two of the planets, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found five more in the same system.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate

According to NASA, three of the newly discovered planets are in the habitable zone of the system. However, even if those three are most likely to have liquid water, all seven planets in TRAPPIST-1 could possibly possess the main condition for “as we know it.”

The seven planets are based around a star significantly smaller and much colder than our Sun. As a result, even the planet closes to the star is likely to have liquid water.  The distance between the planets, as well as their remoteness from the star is smaller than is the case in the solar system.

“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” stated Michael Gillon, the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. He added that the TRAPPIST-1 system is “the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”

Currently, researchers concluded the planets are likely to be rocky based on the density they calculated. Scientists will conduct further research in hope to find out whether any of the planets is rich in water.

“Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal,” Zurbruchen claimed.

The discovery didn’t go unnoticed by Google as it came up with a Doodle on its homepage to celebrate NASA’s latest discovery.

Credit: Google

 

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