In a remarkable new discovery, NASA has just announced that they have located a sister solar system with seven Earth-sized planets 39 light-years away which are orbiting the habitable area of a star. Preliminary research is now showing that six out of the seven Earth-like planets have a similar mass to Earth and have rocky compositions, according to observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. They also have temperatures ranging from 32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 100 degrees Celsius), as Science Alert has reported.
NASA has remarked that some of the planets found in this sister solar system could even feature liquid water, which would make it possible for them to also host extraterrestrial life of some kind.
For days the public was left wondering about the “discovery beyond our Solar System” after NASA said that they would be making a public announcement, and with their live press conference they announced that they had just discovered these seven new planets orbiting one star in a sister solar system very similar to ours, albeit one that is still 39 light-years away.
These seven new planets have been found orbiting what is an ultracool dwarf star which is known as TRAPPIST-1 and is in the constellation of Aquarius. This star has a temperature of 2550K and is 500 million years old, if not older. By way of comparison, our sun is 4.6 billion years old and has a temperature of 5778K.
The University of Liege’s Michael Gillon led the team of astronomers who discovered this sister solar system, and they had initially noticed three exoplanets in May 2016, which were spotted using telescopes. However, the other four planets were not found until Gillon’s team began to study these three exoplanets more closely and were aided in their endeavor by NASA’s Spitzer space telescope.
Once they began examining these planets with the Spitzer telescope, they noticed that there were four further planets circling the star 39 million light-years away. The European Space Observatory has called this sister solar system “the most incredible star system to date.”
With so much excitement surrounding these seven planets circling one star, researchers have urged caution. They note that there is still quite a lot of research to be done, and have remarked that the seventh planet circling the TRAPPIST-1 star has only been spotted in orbit once.
The discovery of 7 Earth-sized planets around a single star is stunning. Imagine what these worlds might be like. https://t.co/ouB2AC1I8t
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) February 22, 2017
On the other hand, scientists like Michael Gillon are also saying that three of these planets in the sister solar system are very likely to host liquid oceans, and they also say that this new solar system has a lot in common with our own, as the Telegraph reported.
“The planets are all close to each other and very close to the star, which is very reminiscent of the moons around Jupiter. Still, the star is so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water, and maybe life, by extension, on the surface.”
All of the planets in the sister solar system discovered are of a similar size to Venus and Earth, with some just a little smaller. Because the star these planets orbit is so dim, the planets are slowly warmed despite the fact that they have smaller orbits than our Mercury.
What has excited other astronomers about the discovery of this new solar system is that there is a greater than ever chance for Earth-like planets in our own solar system, as Ignas A. G. Snellen from Leiden University in the Netherlands has said.
“In the past few years, evidence has been mounting that Earth-sized planets are abundant in the Galaxy, but Gillon and collaborators’ findings indicate that these planets are even more common than previously thought. From geometric arguments, we expect that for every transiting planet found, there should be a multitude of similar planets (20 to 100 times more) that, seen from Earth, never pass in front of their host star.”
What did you think about NASA’s announcement of the discovery of the sister solar system with seven planets circling one star 39 light-years away?
[Featured Image by NASA/Getty Images]