News Highlightsr

Don’t pack your bags for a trip just yet, but NASA has discovered seven Earth-sized planets around a single star and they could have liquid water—the key to supporting life as we know it!

NASA scientists said last year they had discovered three planets in the system, but announced just last month that there were more planets than they initially believed.

It’s a rare discovery because the planets, scientifically known as EXOPLANETS because they’re outside our solar system, are similar in size to Earth and have temperate climates. The seven exoplanets rotate around an ultracool dwarf star.

Researchers estimate that the planets are rocky. This is different than some of the planets in our own solar system, such as Jupiter, that are gaseous. Three of the planets are in the “habitable zone” of the star, and researchers believe they could have oceans on them!

The view on these planets may be pretty spectacular, too. Researchers say the planets ORBIT very close to each other—which means if you were standing on one of the planets, you may be able to look up and see the geological features or clouds of nearby planets! Scientists also believe some sides of the planets may be exposed to constant nighttime and daytime skies. This happens if the same side of the planet is always facing the star.

The system is about 40 light years away, which is 235 trillion miles, in the constellation Aquarius. Even though scientists can see the system using telescopes, it would take us millions of years to get there!

The exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1 and is named for the telescope in Chile that made the initial discovery. Researchers used several additional telescopes to confirm the original discovery and find the additional planets.

In the next 10 years, NASA researchers hope to search for signs of life and water on the exoplanets. They also hope to continue the search for similar star systems and more exoplanets.

Edition: 
Phoenix
Tucson
Issue: 
March 2017