[Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser]
NASA’s recent discovery of seven Earth-sized planets gives the world hope that there may be other life in the universe. The seven planets are located 39 light years from Earth and orbit a single star the size of Jupiter. Their Earth-like similarities have excited researchers in their quest to find life on other planets.
The seven planets are orbiting a Jupiter-sized star known as TRAPPIST-1. The star is also classified as an “ultracool dwarf” because its surface temperatures are less than 4,400 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Michael Gillon, the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exploration at the University of Liege in Belgium, “The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star”. In a press release, Gillon also said that the atmospheres of the TRAPPIST planets are worth studying to see if these Earth-sized planets are habitable.
NASA research has discovered that three of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 orbit have the highest potential of supporting life: TRAPPIST-1E, -1F, and -1G. They predict that TRAPPIST-1E may have similar surface temperatures to the Earth; TRAPPIST-1F may have an abundance of water; and TRAPPIST-1G is approximately 13 percent larger than planet Earth but receives a similar amount of sunlight to Mars. The three planets are known as the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ because they constitute the region around a star that can support liquid water on the planet’s surface.
Researchers have also found that the distance between the three planets in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ is only a few times more than the distance between Earth and the moon. In which case, the view from each of these planets would give you a stunning image of the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ planets nearby. NASA has created an illustration of what the view from TRAPPIST-1F may look like.
The Great TRAPPIST-1 Discovery
Scientists at NASA discovered the TRAPPIST-1 star and its planetary system using the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope. For further exploration of the TRAPPIST-1 system, NASA will start using the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. Researchers hope to use the new telescope to find out unknown information about these Earth-sized planets. They hope to find out their atmosphere and greenhouse gas compositions and possible surface temperatures. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has also begun listening in on the TRAPPIST-1 system, but has not yet detected radio signals.
Despite NASA’s new advancement and discovery in space exploration, they acknowledge the need for highly advanced technologies in order to visit the TRAPPIST-1 planets. Let’s not forget that the TRAPPIST-1 system is 39 lightyears away, and that it would take about 44 million years to reach going at the speed of a modern jet plane. So it could take some time before humans can get a closer look at these Earth-sized planets. Until then, NASA will have to obtain information from within our solar system.
To stay updated on the TRAPPIST-1 system, be sure to follow NASA’s updates on astronomical discoveries.