Astronomers Discover Intriguing System 40 light Years from Earth
Astronomers have found seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting a parent star 40 light-years away from Earth, paving the way for another clue of possible life outside our solar system.
The astronomers believe the exoplanets are the same size as Earth and are dominantly temperate, thus giving these alien planets the potential to support life.
The seven exoplanets were all found in a tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. This rare and wonderful image dazzled the astronomers.
Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium, said, “This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star.”
This new discovery was published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The findings were also announced at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Best Candidates for Supporting Life?
The astronomers believe that these planets are rocky and not gaseous. Three of the planets are in the habitable zone of the star, known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, and may even have oceans on the surface.
With the rocky surfaces, they could support liquid water, which is essential for life. Aside from that, if the planets are indeed rocky, they could contain the six right elements in the right concentration for life including carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.
However, TRAPPIST-1f in particular is the best candidate for supporting life. It’s a bit cooler than Earth, but could be suitable with the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases.
Crucial Step Towards Finding if There Is Life Out There!
Astronomers asserted that the discovery of these planets improves the chances of finding another habitable planet, like Earth, in the future.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said, “This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life.”
The discovery is considered a significant step in answering the question, ‘are we alone?’
Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, said, “I think we’ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there.”
Discovery of New Planets
This is not the first time the astronomers have discovered new planets or exoplanets. In fact, NASA’s Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of 1,284 new planets or exoplanets in May 2016.
At first, the Kepler space telescope discovered 4,302 potential planets. But through intensive analysis, the scientists were able to name 1,284 candidates that earn the status of “planet.”
How to Earn the Status of “Planet”?
An object must earn a 99% chance to be called a planet. What about the rest of the potential planets? The other 1,327 candidates were not identified as planets because they failed to meet the 99 percent threshold and will need additional study. The remaining 707 are identified as astrophysical phenomena.