NASA Discovers Earth-Size, Habitable Zone Planets

Proving that life actually thrives there, however, will be extremely hard. More observations with Hubble are planned to search for signs of water or methane. So, whatever they discover in TRAPPIST-1 will serve to study the most common kind of star and planets in the whole cosmos. This finding strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are terrestrial in nature. All seven of them can actually fit within the orbit of Mercury.

The length of each planet's day may sync with its stellar orbit, so the innermost planet's day lasts 1.5 Earth days and the outermost planet's day lasts about 20 Earth days.

Most reality TV shows operate on this model to keep you watching to the end.

A team of astronomers from across the world worked on the project which revealed that the planets in what has been named the Trappist-1 system are Earth-sized. Well NASA has just announced there is some new property on the market. This means could have liquid water on their surface‚ which increases the chances of them hosting life.

Other telescopes used include Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes in Chile‚ Morocco‚ Hawaii and the Canary Islands. By knowing how big the star is, and how much light is blocked, we can calculate how big the planets are.

It's probably just as well for the aliens there that our technology limits us from taking a closer look.

But the space station is only 400 kilometres above.

"The view would be lovely - you would have about 200 times less light that from the Sun on Earth at midday", he added. In any such system, the star is given the suffix "A", and the planets are given alphabets from b. Taking up only a few pixels in the camera frame, Earth was, as famous astronomer Carl Sagan put it, "a pale blue dot".

Roberge: At the moment, all you really tell from the transits is these are small black dots.

The fact that it is blue is a good clue, because that is the colour of liquid water.

"If the star is active (as indicated by the X-ray flux) then [a planet in orbit] needs an ozone layer to shield its surface from the harsh UV that would sterilize the surface". This also means they are likely tidally locked. NASA's detection is definitely quite promising and dares us to plunge into thorough research, looking for life beyond Earth. When the first three planets were found around TRAPPIST-1 in 2016, the SETI Institute, which searches for intelligent signals from space, pointed its telescopes towards the system and heard nothing. "They are very close to their star and are reminiscent of the system of moons that orbit Jupiter". Until we develop starships that travel at tremendous speeds so we can visit these worlds and look down on them as our astronauts do on Earth, we are left with pale dots of whatever colour exist there. Craig wonders if we explore new planets would end up being over lords?

The discovery of the exoplanets came as a sort of vindication for astronomers who trained their sights on the cool, dim stars known as M dwarfs.

"How do we get the data we need to answer these questions?" he asked.

  • Carolyn Briggs