Quirks & Quarks

A solar system with 7 Earth-size planets: will there be life?

Scientists find habitable planets around a type of star nobody had ever thought to check.
The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist's concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on February 23, 2017 announcing new results about the system. Any of these planets could have liquid water on them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have found a star system a mere 39 light years away with seven 'Earth size' planets in its orbit. It's an incredible discovery that boosts our odds of finding life outside our own solar system. 

Ever since humans started searching for habitable planets outside of our solar system, most efforts have been focused on looking around stars like our own sun, until now. This redirection of effort has paid off, big time.

This artist's concept allows us to imagine what it would be like to stand on the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f, located in the TRAPPIST-1 system in the constellation Aquarius. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC))

Last year Dr. Emmanuël Jehin, an astronomer at Belgium's University de Liège, discovered three planets around an ultra-cool dwarf star, more commonly known as TRAPPIST-1. It wasn't until they got the Spitzer Space Telescope to set its sights on this star system that they realized what they were really looking at. 

Some 40 light-years from Earth, a planet called TRAPPIST-1e offers a heart-stopping view: brilliant objects in a red sky, looming like larger and smaller versions of our own moon. But these are no moons. They are other Earth-sized planets in a spectacular planetary system outside our own. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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