During a press conference in Washington DC on Wednesday, NASA said that by using the Spitzer Area Telescope, they have discovered 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting a star about 40 light years far from Earth. 3 of those exist within the “Goldilocks zone” which could be habitable for life.
This is the very first time that astronomers have actually discovered another solar system with 7 planets approximately the same size as Earth. NASA figures that with the ideal atmospheric conditions on these 7 planets, all might have the presence of water. The chances of water are greatest on the 3 Goldilocks.
Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the primary private investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet study said that if oxygen, methane, ozone and carbon dioxide are discovered in their environments, then it “would tell us there is life with 99 percent self-confidence.”
What is TRAPPIST-1?
The Trappist system is named after the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, which originally found 3 of the planets and revealed their findings in May 2015. With the help of other ground-based telescopes such as the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer verified the presence of 2 of them and discovered another 5 of these planets.
This recently found Trappist-1 is almost 235 trillion miles away from Earth. All 7 planets are believed to be terrestrial planets like ours. Unlike gas giants such as Jupiter or ice overshadows like Ceres.
More details about these 7 planets
These planets circle their host star, which is an ultra-cool dwarf that’s both smaller and dimmer than the Sun. The innermost planets complete their orbits in just 1.5 and 2.4 days, respectively, with the 6th planet making the orbit every 12 days. The outer planet hasn’t been observed yet but is believe to have an orbit of around 20 days.
Their orbits are so near to one another that if you were to look up from the surface of one planet, you might likely see the geological surface of the neighbours. The good news is the Trappist star is weak. Therefore, regardless of the planets’ distance, there’s still a great possibility that liquid water might exist on their surfaces.
This news comes at an amazing time in the search for planets beyond our own planetary system. Since the start of this year, researchers have actually discovered the existence of water on a world about 50 light years away. Recently, NASA introduced a crowdsourcing effort making it possible for researchers to look for exoplanets.