by MARISSA AYALA
Humans all around the globe have been studying space and its orbits for hundreds of years, and to discover life outside of Earth is extraordinary. The well-known space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with its many partners around the world, has found seven earth-like planets just forty light years away.
Michael Gillon, lead author of the Nature paper, announced the discovery and stated, “It’s the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star”, “The seven planets … could have some liquid water and maybe life on the surface”.
Three of the planets have been seen to be directly on the star’s habitable zone, meaning water can be on the surface of these planets. One of them, Gillon explains, has a mass that suggests water-rich composition. And it is very likely that the other four planets could have water as well, depending on the composition of their atmospheres, the astronomers said.
The exoplanets orbits a star called Trappist-1 in the constellation Aquarius. Trappist-1 is a “ultra-tiny” dwarf star. It has a mass that is just about a tenth of the Sun, and is about one-thousandth as bright. However, its low mass allows its planets to orbit closely and remain in the habitable zone. The space at which the planets orbit Trappist-1 is comparable to the distance of Jupiter to its moons. All the planets are said to be rocky and very close to the size of Earth.
At the moment, astronomers are beginning to study the Earth-like planets’ atmospheres with the telescopes they have now. From the observations they have noted that the planets have a rocky surface. These planets are believed to have a permanent day side and a permanent night side, and because these planets lay close together it is believed that they appear moon-like in each of the planets.
Tiny, cool stars like Trappist-1 are easily found in our galaxy and studying them could lead to many other new Earth-like planets. Just as NASA associate Thomas Zurbuchen stated, “Finding another Earth-like planets isn’t a matter of if but when”.