Seven Earth-Like Planets Orbit One Nearby Star
The most promising place to search for life outside our solar system just got even more enticing.
Last year, a research team operating the ESO's Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, or TRAPPIST, discovered that a small, dim red dwarf star about 39 light-years away had three planets orbiting it. All three exoplanets were about the size of Earth and in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone" where temperatures can hover between 0 and 100 degrees C—the ideal conditions for liquid water and, perhaps, life.
The team, lead by Michaël Gillon of the STAR Institute at the University of Liège in Belgium, eagerly turned more telescopes toward TRAPPIST-1, including NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the ESO's Very Large Telescope. Now, a paper published today in Nature reveals that TRAPPIST-1 has not three but seven Earth-sized planets, six of which are likely rocky, and all seven could possibly support liquid water.
"All of these planets are the best targets found so far to search for signs of life in the next decade, and it is remarkable that they are all transiting the same star," co-author and MIT planetary scientist Julien de Wit told Popular Mechanics in an email. "This means that the system will allow us to study each planet in great depth, providing for the first time a rich perspective on a different planetary system than ours."Source and more: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a25336/seven-earth-like-planets-trappist-1/