Three planets capable of supporting life found in nearby star system.
Earlier today, (February 22, 2017), NASA announced the discovery of seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 star system, 235 trillion miles, or 40 light years, away from Earth. Observations made by the infrared Spitzer space telescope have determined that all seven planets are rocky bodies roughly Earth’s size or smaller.
Most significantly, however, was that three of the seven planets orbit within the star’s habitable zone, increasing the likelihood of liquid water and the correct conditions for life to develop.
Since the system’s primary star is known as an ultra-cool dwarf, all seven planets could potentially hold liquid water on their surfaces, even though only three lie within the habitable zone. Further observations made by Spitzer have shown that all the planet’s orbit closer to their star than Mercury does to our sun, though the TRAPPIST-1 star is significantly smaller and cooler than our own. NASA stated that the planets are so close together that one would be able to discern surface features and weather patterns on the other planets from their neighbor’s surfaces.
This marks the first time that an exoplanetary system has been discovered where three of the planets lie in their star’s habitable zone and are comprised of rock. Previous discoveries have been of planets both gaseous and rocky much larger than the ones announced today. Other exoplanets located within their respective system’s habitable zone
The system is named after the telescope that first discovered it back in 2016, the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile. TRAPPIST discovered three planets in the system, in May, 2016, before Spitzer found four more.