Not one, not two, but seven potentially life-harboring planets have been discovered in outer space.
The planets are orbiting around TRAPPIST-1, a small dwarf star 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles away from Earth. Three of the seven planets were found to be orbiting the star last year and four more have been discovered in a recent study published by Nature.
Several of the planets orbit in a more habitable zone of the TRAPPIST-1 where the potential for supporting liquid water on their surfaces is very high. If water does exist on the others, it could be in ice form because of the possibility that they are tidally locked to the star.
If life exists on any of the worlds, it most likely would not be similar to the conditions we experience on Earth. The TRAPPIST-1 would warm the planets, but not be visible like the sun is to us.
Amaury H. M. J. Triaud, research team member and astronomer at the University of Cambridge, described the situation as being similar to the amount of light we receive at the end of a sunset —brighter than the moon, but dimmer than the sun.
Because of its proximity to Earth, we will be able to study the new planets in great detail. Observation is currently underway to study the atmosphere of the planets and look for signs of life.
“I think that we have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” Triaud said.
Top Photo: NASA, CC0
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.