For the first time, seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life have been discovered orbiting a star 39 light years away, astronomers said today.
“They could have some liquid water and maybe life,” lead researcher Michael Gillon, with the University of Liege in Belgium, was quoted as saying by science journal Nature.
Astronomers have found other seven—planet systems before, but this is the first time to have so many Earth-sized worlds. All of them orbit at the right distance to possibly have liquid water somewhere on their surfaces. The planets closely circle a dwarf star named Trappist—1, which at 39 light years away makes the system a prime candidate to search for signs of life. Only marginally larger than Jupiter, the star shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun, the journal said.
The researchers have caught only two glimpses of one of those planets, so they followed up on the faint signals with other telescopes. That process included 20 consecutive days when NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope stared at the star. Read more