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In what is a landmark moment in the search for exoplanets and a possible future second home, NASA has announced the discovery of seven Earth-like exoplanets in one solar system.
“Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water,” NASA said on its website.
The agency used the Spitzer space telescope to make the discovery, adding that it was the largest batch of habitable zone exoplanets it’s ever found.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
“Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
The system, dubbed TRAPPIST-1, was found in the constellation Aquarius, being relatively “close” at 40 light years away.
TRAPPIST-1 marks the record for the most Earth-like planets found in a habitable or so-called Goldilocks zone
So what can we expect these worlds to look like? Well, NASA analysis has already revealed some information.
“Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, ‘snowball-like’ world, but further observations are needed.”
NASA added that all seven planets discovered orbit their “ultra-cool dwarf” star closer than Mercury orbits the Sun.