The seven Earth-sized planets were identified orbiting a tiny star and they could potentially harbour life.
NASA identified the planets orbiting a dwarf star called Trappist-1 at about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from Earth.
These seven planets represent the first realistic opportunity to search for signs of alien life outside the solar system. They appear to be quite close in cosmic terms and their orbits’ orientation is ideal to allow further observations.
“I think that we have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury H. M. J. Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in England and a member of the international research team observing Trappist-1. “Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to that we have on Earth, then we will know.”
According to The New York Times, one or more of the exoplanets could be at the right temperature to be covered in oceans of waters, based on their distance from the dwarf star.
“You can just imagine how many worlds are out there that have a shot to becoming a habitable ecosystem,” explained Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate, during a NASA news conference on Wednesday. “Are we alone out there? We’re making a step forward with this — a leap forward, in fact — towards answering that question.”
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