The discovery of a solar system with seven Earth-size planets orbiting a dim star has sparked major excitement today in the world of science. Astronomers revealed their findings at NASA’s headquarters in Washington after publishing their study in the journal called Nature.
There are at least seven planets in this newly discovered solar system and a few are the right distance away from the star to potentially support life, which is where the majority of the excitement over this find stems from. Astronomers state that this finding is the first of its kind as they have never come across so many planets around one star that have all the factors conducive to life.
Space.com reports that these planets may be capable of supporting “life as we know it. Astronomers have determined that with the combination of these planets being Earth-size and “all temperate,” there is a chance they could have water on their surfaces, and where there is water, there is a potential for life.
These planets are in a tight formation around the star TRAPPIST-1, and three of the seven are located in the “habitable zone” of the star, TRAPPIST-1 e, f, and g planets. This is just like how the Earth is within the habitable zone of the sun, which is basically a star. This new study also suggests that some of the planets may contain oceans on their surface.
The planets were estimated for mass, and this has indicated that the surface is rocky, according to CNN. Astronomers believe that the planet they’ve named TRAPPIST-1f is the planet with the most potential to support life. The 1-f planet is a little bit cooler than Earth, but combine this with greenhouse gases and the right atmosphere, TRAPPIST-1f could have the conditions needed for sustaining life.
The top researchers are very excited about this find.
Thomas Zurbuchen, who is the associate administrator for 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.”
He also had some words about how this find is getting the world closer to answering the age-old question: Are we alone? Zurbuchen also said that “finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
These planets are extremely close to each other, and they are also very close to the star. The seven planets are in a space that is five times smaller than the distance from the planet Mercury to the sun. The orbits of these planets range from 1.5 to 13 Earth days, but the farthest planet’s orbit is still unknown. The research suggests that since this star is so close to the planets, you would experience enough energy to keep you warm if you stood on one of these planets’ surfaces.
Despite the planet getting almost as much energy that the Earth gets from the sun, the light given off by the star gives you 200 times less light than you would get on the Earth’s surface from the sun. Because the planets are in such close proximity to each other, while standing on that planet’s surface, the view would be spectacular, as the other planets would be seen just as the moon is seen from the Earth. They would appear about the same size as the moon, filling the sky with a sight that most would find fantastic.
The TRAPPIST-1 star has a reddish color to it, so the astronomers believe the light given off by this star to the other planets would cast a salmon hue, making it a bit different than the Earth’s lighting. The three planets closest to the TRAPPIST-1 star might not be able to support water because they are too warm and the planet that is the furthest out might have the opposite problem supporting water — it is too cold. The three planets in the middle are what the astronomers have their eyes on for the possibility of water, and there’s even a chance they have oceans on their surface.
Habitable planets in a new solar system!— Phillip E Klebba (@peklebba) February 22, 2017
7 Earthlike planets orbiting a nearby star https://t.co/N19mJXC756
At 40 light-years away, these planets are not far when you take into consideration the vastness of space. If you take into consideration how far technology allows humans to travel today, then these planets are very far away. It would take folks on Earth “millions of years” to reach the star system.
So how do the astronomers make these assumptions when studying the planet? A lot has to do with the light given off by the star and the light that shines on each planet.
Scientists can hone in on the type of atmosphere surrounding each planet by recording the starlight through the planet’s atmosphere. Using many telescopes that are stationed around the Earth, studying these planets over time allowed the astronomers to follow the planets in their orbit around the star.
[Featured Image by NASA/AP Images]