Seven Potential Earths Discovered Orbiting One Tiny Star
Three of the planets in this system, known as TRAPPIST-1, are in the habitable zone - the region around the star in which liquid water is most likely to thrive on a rocky planet.
Astronomers will now focus on investigating if the planets have atmospheres. "That bodes well for finding habitable planets", he says.
There have been many discoveries of potentially habitable planets orbiting stars other than our own over the last few years. That's because the relatively young 500-million-year old star they revolve around has been classified as an ultra-cool dwarf star, which means it has an effective temperature of under 2,700 K (2,430 °C; 4,400 °F). "Future NASA space experiments like the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope mission will allow us to image planets like Earth". Three of them could possibly have liquid water, a key to life on Earth. The dip in light level also helps distinguish the approximate size of the planet.
Using the additional information gathered by the Spitzer telescope, the Belgium-based exoplanet survey team could accurately measure the sizes of the seven planets. This creates a perpetual night side and perpetual day side on each planet. That's like Earth rotating once in 365 days instead of in 24 hours.
While he played an assisting role in this discovery, Agol has his own planet discovery to his credit - finding Kepler 62F in 2013.
The seven exoplanets were all found in a tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. This video describes some of the data collected to make the discovery and what the analyses are revealing about these foreign worlds. It is possible this is the case for at least four out of seven planets, albeit further observation will provide more valuable insights regarding this matter.
For example, he said, several craters on the moon are named after Jesuit priests and brothers and the SECCHI (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation) instruments being used for solar research are named after Jesuit Father Angelo Secchi, one of the founding fathers of modern astrophysics.
"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. Each time the orbiting planets passed between the star and scientists' terrestrial telescope, the starlight dimmed. The cool, reddish star is about 40 light-years away from Earth. Aside from that, if the planets are indeed rocky, they could contain the six right elements in the right concentration for life including carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. It could provide an in-depth look at the atmospheres of these planets. Both could make it hard to decipher what gases are in the planets' atmospheres.
Fellow astronomer Professor Ignas Snellen of the Netherlands's Leiden University, not involved in the study, agrees.
This is extraordinary! How soon can we get a closer look to see if all this is true? They could be wet or dry.
The discovery is considered a significant step in answering the question, 'are we alone?'
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