For the first time ever, astronomers have discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a nearby star _ and these new worlds could hold life.
This cluster of planets is less than 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, according to NASA and the Belgian-led research team who announced the discovery. The planets circle tightly around a dim dwarf star called Trappist-1, barely the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water and, possibly life, might exist. The others are right on the doorstep.
- Around a nearby, cold, small star we found 7 rocky Earth-size planets, all of which could have liquid water – key to life as we know it.
- Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life. But it already shows just how many Earth-size planets could be out there _ especially in a star’s sweet spot, ripe for extraterrestrial life.
- There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy, said co-author Emmanuel Jehin of the University of Liege.
- This compact solar system is reminiscent of Jupiter and its Galilean moons, according to the researchers.
- The ultracool star at the heart of this system would shine 200 times dimmer than our sun, a perpetual twilight as we know it. And the star would glow red _ maybe salmon-colored, the researchers speculate.
- The spectacle would be beautiful because every now and then, you would see another planet, maybe about as big as twice the moon in the sky, depending on which planet you’re on and which planet you look at.
- The Leiden Observatory’s Ignas Snellen, who was not involved in the study, is excited by the prospect of learning more about what he calls “the seven sisters of planet Earth.”