Quirks & Quarks

Tiny star has triplet planets

Astronomers discover a nearby system with a tiny star and three Earth-sized planets that are potentially conducive to life.

A Red Dwarf star, only 40 light years away, has three Earth-sized planets

An artist’s impression of the view from the outermost of the three planets orbiting a dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. (ESO/M. Kornmesser)
Many of the planets we've found around nearby stars are huge, Jupiter-like, gas giants, and are orbiting large, bright stars. They're not much like the Earth, and aren't thought to be likely places for life to thrive.

But this week, a team of astronomers, including Dr. Adam Burgasser from the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego, announced that they'd found something different. Using the TRAPPIST telescope in Chile, they've discovered a solar system very close to us with small planets – Earth-sized planets - around a relatively tiny star. 

It's not a solar system that looks much like ours, but it might be the kind of place we'd like to look at if we're looking for potentially habitable worlds.

Related Links

Paper in Nature
- European Space Agency release
- University of California, San Diego release
TRAPPIST telescope 
- Scientific American story
- CBC News story