#Space #NASA #Planets #Feb2017
NASA Telescope Found A Solar System With 7 Rocky Of Earth-sized, Habitable-Zone Planets Around The TRAPPIST-1 Star, Are Relatively Close To Us; Located ~40 Light-Years Away, With The Potential to Support Water – And Even Maybe Life
NASA has discovered seven planets with Earth-like qualities orbiting a nearby star making them among the strongest candidates in the continued search for extraterrestrial life among known exoplanets, or planets that exist outside of our own solar system.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA & TRAPPIST-1: A Treasure Trove of Planets Found – VIDEO
These new planets all inhabit another solar system which includes seven planets that have a relatively warm climate, as well as rocky terrain, both of which are promising signs in terms of identifying starting points for the search for both water and life. The planets all orbit TRAPPIST-1, a so-called ‘ultracool dwarf’ star, which unfortunately does not mean that it shares characteristics with Gimli from the Lord of the Rings.
Instead, the TRAPPIST-1 star is just a tenth the size of our own sun, and only gives off around a quarter of the radiant heat. The planets are far nearer the sun, too: the one closest in has a ‘year’ (the time it takes it to orbit the star) of a little over one day, and the one the furthest out completes its own annual cycle in only 20 days.
“This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,” said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”
Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.