An exciting discovery in the world of Astronomy has many excited, as seven earth sized planets are orbiting a nearby supercool star, three with orbits that may put them in the “habitable” zone. The planets are orbiting around a star called TRAPPIST-1, a prime target for the discovery of alien life. This discovery also leads scientists to believe that there may be many more “cousins” of earth than previously thought, lending credence to the idea that we’re probably not alone in the universe.
Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland in College Park spoke on the discovery, saying,“It’s rather stunning that the system has so many Earth-sized planets. It seems like every stable spot where a planet could be, there is an Earth-sized one. That bodes well for finding habitable planets.”
TRAPPIST-1 is about the size of Jupiter and is 39 light years away from earth in the constellation Aquarius. If the planets orbiting the star have earthlike atmospheres, it’s possible that they have oceans similar to Earth, and seeing as life is likely to have originated in a hydro-thermal vent at the bottom of the sea.
All seven planets were discovered by watching how the star dims when the planets pass in front of it. Calculations determined that all seven planets have roughly the same radius as Earth. The starlight fluctuations also give us a sense of the planets’ orbits, with the fastest planet orbiting the sun in 1.5 days and the slowest taking 20 days.
“We are on the right angle to see this system and its Earth-sized planets,” says Deming, who was not involved in the study. “For every system we see, there are dozens more that we don’t.”
The possibility of a multitude of Earth-like planets somewhere out there is thrilling, and as time goes on it’s becoming more and more possible that we’ll discover life outside of Earth.