In one of the most groundbreaking space discoveries till date, NASA has announced that they have found not one, but seven Earth-sized planets in a “sister solar system.” NASA scientists who are working with telescopes at the European Southern Observatory state that the density of these planets indicates that at least the inner six planets have Earth-like masses, a rocky composition, and “habitable” surface temperatures between 0 to 100°C (32 to 212°F).
NASA terms the discovery as a ‘sister solar system’ where most of the planets have the potential to host liquid water and maybe even extraterrestrial life since they lie in their star’s habitable zone. The habitable zone, which is also known as the “Goldilocks zone,” is the region around a star where liquid water could theoretically exist.
These conditions dramatically increase the probability of the existence of life on these planets, and NASA speculates that at least three of these alien worlds may consist of oceans of water. Other planets may not have large bodies of oceans, but the presence of liquid water is still a possibility on all seven of these planets.
Commenting on the discovery, the lead author Michaël Gillon writes that this solar system has the largest number of Earth-sized planets and the largest number of worlds with the possibility of liquid water found till date:
“This is an amazing planetary system — not only because we have found so many planets, but because they are all surprisingly similar in size to the Earth!”
Below is a comparison of our Solar System when compared to the discovered TRAPPIST-1 system;
The co-author of the study, Amaury Triaud, notes how the star in this system is an “ultracool dwarf,” of our solar system,
“The energy output from dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1 is much weaker than that of our Sun. Planets would need to be in far closer orbits than we see in the Solar System if there is to be surface water. Fortunately, it seems that this kind of compact configuration is just what we see around TRAPPIST-1.”
While all these discoveries can make for an exciting film plot, yet, unfortunately, we will have to compromise on telescope visuals and artistic designs for now. The system is 40 light-years away, which on a cosmic scale, is right next door but practically, it would still take hundreds of millions of years to reach if we consider today’s technology.
The latest discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 is of monumental importance for space scientists, as this gives a significant boost to the prospects of finding life and habitable conditions beyond our solar system. Emmanuël Jehin, who also worked on the research, thinks that the future telescopes like the Hubble will allow us to see into the heart of this system:
“With the upcoming generation of telescopes, such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, we will soon be able to search for water and perhaps even evidence of life on these worlds.”
Below is a video of Sean Carey, the manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Centre, who talks about the astonishing details of the galaxy we live in:
What are your thoughts on the incredible discovery? Comment below!