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NASA has discovered 7 Earth-like planets orbiting a star just 40 light-years away

This tiny star has 7 planets that potentially could be suitable for life.

The first step in finding life outside our own planet is to find a planet like our own: small, rocky, and at just the right distance from the star that liquid water could exist on its surface.

That’s why an announcement today from NASA is so exciting: The space agency, along with partners around the world, has found seven potentially Earth-like planets orbiting a star 40 light-years away.

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“It’s the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around a same star,” Michaël Gillon, the lead author of the Nature paper announcing the discovery, said in a press conference. “The seven planets … could have some liquid water and maybe life on the surface.”

Three of the planets are directly in the star’s habitable zone, meaning water can mostly likely exist on the surface of them. One of them, Gillon said, has a mass “strongly to suggest a water-rich composition.” And it’s possible that the other four could have liquid water, too, depending on the composition of their atmospheres, the astronomers said.

The planets “e,” “f,” and “g” — marked in green are directly in the “habitable zone” of this star system. NASA

The exoplanets orbit a star in the constellation Aquarius called Trappist-1. And it’s a solar system very different from our own.

For one, Trappist-1 is a tiny, “ultra-cool” dwarf star. It’s cool because it’s small: just about a tenth of the mass of our sun and about one-thousandth as bright. But its low mass allows its planets to orbit it very closely and remain in the habitable zone.

The distance at which the planets orbit Trappist-1 is comparable to the distance of Jupiter to its moons. All the planets are believed to be rocky, and are all believed to be around the size of Earth, give or take 10 to 20 percent.

The star’s dimness is actually what led to the discoveries of these planets. When astronomers search for exoplanets, they typically look for a temporary dimming of a star — an indication that a planet has passed in front of it. This method makes it hard to find small, rocky worlds orbiting big, bright stars. If the planets are too small, they’ll get washed out.

“Maybe the most exciting thing here is that these seven planets are very well suited for detailed atmospheric study,” Gillon said. The James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, will have the ability to measure the chemical composition of exoplanet atmospheres. If the atmospheres contain telltale gases like ozone, oxygen, or methane, life could exist there. “We can expect that in a few years, we will know a lot more about these [seven] planets,” Amaury Triaud, another of the paper’s co-authors, said.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, it’s because astronomers announced three potentially habitable planets around Trappist-1 in May. Today’s reveal adds four more to the mix.

Right now, the astronomers are beginning to study the planets’ atmospheres with the telescopes they have. And from these observations, they feel fairly confident that the worlds are rocky. “For detailed characterization, we will need James Webb,” Triaud said.

In the meantime, we just have our imaginations to fill in the gap. This is an artist’s rendition of what the fifth planet in this bizarre solar system might look like. These planets are believed to be tidally locked to the star, each has a permanent day side and a permanent nice side. And because the planets are so close together, they’d appear in the sky like moons.

This artist’s concept allows us to imagine what it would be like to stand on the surface of the exoplanet Trappist-1f. Dream vacation? NASA/JPL-Caltech

The more Earth-like exoplanets astronomers find in the galaxy, the more they update their estimates of how many Earth-like planets could be out there. “For every transiting planet found, there should be a multitude of similar planets (20–100 times more) that, seen from Earth, never pass in front of their host star,” Nature reporter Ignas Snellen explains in a feature article. And the more exoplanets there are, the more likely it is that life exists on at least one of them.

“With this discovery we’ve made a giant, accelerated leap forward in our search for habitable worlds and life on other worlds potentially,” Sara Seager, a leading exoplanet expert at MIT, said during the announcement. This one star system, she said, gives astronomers many chances to look for life, and refine their understanding of exoplanets in small-star systems.

Also promising: Tiny, cool stars like Trappist-1 are some of the most common in the galaxy. Investigating them will likely yield more exoplanet discoveries. Which will help get us closer to finding places like Earth.

As NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said, “Finding another Earth-like planet isn’t a matter of if but when.“

Source www.vox.com

44 Comments

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  1. Que buena noticia la mala como llegamos ahí 40 años luz.
    La velocidad de la luz en el vacío es por definición una constante universal de valor 299 792 458 m/s (aproximadamente 186 282,397 millas/s) (suele aproximarse a 3·108 m/s), o lo que es lo mismo 9,46·1015 m/año; la segunda cifra es la usada para definir la unidad de longitud llamada año luz.
    O sea como les digo está súper fácil llegar verdad? Hoy Imposible así que buena noticia para el futuro hoy NO

  2. I have seen the faces of the men that went to the moon at a interview.The look on all there faces was a worried look.Hey if I was the first to walk on the moon I would have at least had a smile on my face.The look on there faces was worried they saw something .We are not alone there here I am not crazy when I was four I was face to face with one.

  3. It so cool if those exoplanets has neighbors and they share the universes trades goods… excellent way of life!!! Maybe we should try start colonize the Mars their DNA and earth DNA find solve riddles and start crop up there!!!!!! The more we do we expand our solar system!!!! Hurry up future to come…

  4. If they are announcing something like this right now, then logically it begs the question: what else do they know? how long has this sort of thing been going on? what are the motives behind such an announcement? what other planets are they aware of/are monitoring/are doing what else to? exactly how and who found out this information? who is considering what ramifications this sort of thing holds/will hold? (if it is even factual, of course)

  5. There is an answer, Its entirely mind blowing, but its true. See what a science journalist has to say in the ‘The Third Explanation’ Amazon paperback. I guarantee you will be astonished, but utterly convinced. And if by any chance you happen to read this comment Seth,shostak, I urge you to read it also, and come out of that academic cupboard you’re currently hiding in!

  6. Jut 40 light years away hahahah … yea it’d only take 400 million years to get there hahah

    Here what I think…. find out the metal properties there …..
    Make a huge magnetic pulser that’s magnetized to it…..
    Shoot the pulse at it …. maybe the gravity inside the pulse would act as a so cold worm hole … think of it as a catapult. .. or a sling shot …. so your in a ship that’s not magnetized but has a magnetized plate on the front nose for guidance and magnetic pull …. so the small ship would be like the rock in the catapult. …
    Once released it would treject you into that realm …then.. simply start yiur engines and fly to these world’s. …. if satellite can report back so can who ever can go there ….
    Just need to some how have zero gravity inside. That’s how u travel with that speed . Even faster than speed of light …
    Zero gravity is the only thing that fools you body and mind into not knowing weather it’s upside down .. sideways whatever. .. so harness those. N that’s what u call time travel…. but it’s no really time travel. It’s warping

  7. ‘Only’ 40 light-years away? We just have to find a worm-hole and zap through it. And how does NASA (remember: Never A Straight Answer?) know that what is orbiting a star is ‘earth-like’??

    • I agree with that about never a straight answer . We have already been to Mars and beyond. The only one who don’t know are us dirt eaters here who are treated like mushrooms fed shit and kept in the dark.

  8. Just think, radio signals travel at the speed of light, and radio has been used here on Earth for almost 100 years, enough time for our radio/tv signals to reach these Planets and for intelligent life there to know we exist. If so, then we may be receiving a return message of acknowledgement any time now?
    This could be good OR bad for us, as they might be a highly advanced and hostile life form that has the ability to travel great distances thru worm holes? And may have been looking for a new Planet to concour?

  9. O… I just thought this would be more exciting news.. I always thought the U.S. didn’t release info to public 10yrs after they knew about it!? Cmon we really dont have warp drive yet? Really?

    • nasa does not reveal threats to earth and 40 light years lol far from a threat , its all about consequence and whos to blame if shit happens in the street , nasa wants no blame so they shut their mouths

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