Nature

LOOK: Astronomers Discover a Nearby Star with 7 Earth-like Planets!

NASA has found a treasure trove in a nearby star system which has seven Earth-like planets orbiting around a dwarf star!

The exciting discovery is the first of its kind as this was, indeed, the first time that several Earth-like planets were found in one star system! Moreover, these planets are believed to be rocky and have surfaces that come with land as well as water bodies, like oceans.

Their size and distance from their star means that there is also a possibility that all seven planets have an atmosphere as well as the gases that are necessary to support life.

Orbiting a cool, red dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1 after the telescope that was used to find it, the seven planets were also named in a similar manner: TRAPPIST-1b up to TRAPPIST-1h.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Amazingly, the TRAPPIST-1 system is so small that its star actually has only a tenth the size of our sun; it also has a dim red glow that you will just receive about 200 times less light than you get from the sun if you were standing on one of the planets’ surface.

But here’s the exciting part: the planets are located so close to their star and to each other that 1) you would still get enough energy from TRAPPIST-1 to keep you warm and 2) you get to enjoy awesome views of all the planets and the dwarf star no matter what planet in the star system you are in! For instance, on planet TRAPPIST-1f, you see the star as three times the size of our Sun as viewed from Earth.

Moreover, the planets are located so close to their star that their orbits only take a few days, with the nearest one revolving around TRAPPIST-1 in just 1 ½ days while the outer planets only take roughly 13 days to orbit around the dwarf star! [The Earth orbits the sun in 365 days while Mercury does so in 88 days.]

Photo credit: NASA / Twitter

If you’re looking for life in this star system, then such would likely be on TRAPPIST-1e, TRAPPIST-1f, and/or TRAPPIST-1g which are located in the ‘habitable zone’. But wouldn’t it be exciting if all three planets had life? We’re surely excited to meet some aliens from these planets and see photos of how their planet looks like!

The star could easily be defined as the Earth’s neighbor for being ‘near’ – just 40 light years away! And that news has led to much excitement on social media, with lots of netizens are hoping aliens from these planets will contact us or that we could get to visit these planets someday.

Let’s “travel” from Earth to the TRAPPIST-1 system in this video:

But while that might be a possibility, such is not achievable within our lifetime – for even if 40 light years away is ‘near’ in astronomical standards, it is still ‘very far’ in Earth standards! Remember that 1 light year is equivalent to the distance traveled by light in 1 year; that is 9,460,730,472,580,800 meters to be exact!

Still, everyone is free to dream, right? It would surely be exciting to think about the possibility of visiting these Earth-like planets – and I’m definitely willing to give up everything just for the chance to enjoy these possible views from any of the planets:

By ESO/M. Kornmesser (http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1615a/) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Rendition by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Learn more about the TRAPPIST-1 system from this video by NASA:

NASA & TRAPPIST-1- A Treasure Trove of Planets Found

We’re celebrating a new discovery! A treasure trove of new planets were found around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of the seven planets are firmly in the habitable zone. Details: http://go.nasa.gov/2lvVN7G

Posted by NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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