NASA discovers seven Earth-size planets: Here are 10 things you must know! – These planets orbit a single nearby star, which could hold life.
For the first time ever, NASA researchers have discovered seven-Earth-size planets orbiting a single nearby star. This hints at the possibility of habitable environments on these planets which could be conducive to life! Here’s a quick look at all the announcements made by NASA:
1. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope made a historic discovery of the most Earth-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star, called TRAPPIST-1. This system of seven rocky worlds – all of them with the potential for water on their surface – is a discovery in the search for life on other worlds. The diameter of TRAPPIST-1 is about 8 percent of the sun’s size. That makes its Earth-sized planets appear large as they parade past too.
2. The star, known as TRAPPIST-1, is a small, dim celestial body in the constellation Aquarius. It is located about 40 light years away from Earth, close by astronomical standards, but about 44 million years away at the average cruising speed of a commercial passenger jet.
3. At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us. It is because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.
4. In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star–classified as an ultra-cool dwarf–is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other.
5. According to NASA, if a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.
6. In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun.
7. Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated. They focused on finding Earth-sized rocky planets with the right temperatures so that water, if any exists, would be liquid, a condition believed to be necessary for life.
8. Researchers also said that the proximity of the system, combined with the proportionally large size of its planets compared to the small star, make it a good target for follow-up studies. They hope to scan the planets’ atmospheres for possible chemical fingerprints of life.
9. Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light. In 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours.
10. Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018.