NASA announced a new system of Exoplanets, which are Earth-size, and could potentially hold life.These exoplanets are located outside of our solar system and orbit a star, which is why they are named so. So why is the discovery of these Exoplanets such a big deal, and what should you know about them? We break down the facts.
Watch | NASA Announces Discovery Of Seven Earth-Size Planets That Could Hold Life
Here are all the points you need to know about the latest Exoplanet discovery:
First: A system of seven planets in a system called TRAPPIST-1 is the highlight of this discovery. NASA has named the system of planets after the ‘Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope,’ which is located in Chile. This telescope first discovered three of the planets in this system in May 2016.
According to NASA, along with the assistance of other big telescopes, and the European Space telescope called Spitzer, the existence of two of these planets was confirmed. In addition to these two, five more planets were discovered by Spitzer. NASA is now putting the total number of planets in this system at seven.
Second: The star in TRAPPIST-1 is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, which NASA points out is in contrast to our Sun. The ultra-cool dwarf has a lower mass than the Sun, and also much lower temperatures. What this means is even if planets are orbiting close to the dwarf sun, it is so cool that liquid water will be able to survive on these planets.
The ultracool star shines 200 times dimmer than our sun, so you’d have twilight at all times on these planets, and the star glows red. The Sun is no bigger than the planet Jupiter in our solar system.
NASA’s telescopes show the planets are closer to the host star than planet Mercury is to our Sun. According to NASA’s own press statement, “If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.”
WATCH VIDEO | NASA Discovered Seven Earth-sized planets, Three In Habitable Zone
Third: Unlike Earth, which rotates on its axis, the planets are “tidally locked to the star.” This means that one side of the planet has only day, and one side has only night. It also means the weather conditions are unlike what we experience on Earth.
Fourth: The planets are Earth-sized. “The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium in NASA’s press statement. “It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”
Using the Spitzer data, NASA’s team calculated the sizes of the seven planets, and have developed the first estimates of the masses of six of them. NASA predicts that based on the density, the planets are rocky, though they can’t confirm the presence of water yet. This will only be determined with more observations. It looks like the seventh planet is an icy, snow world, which might remind some of Pluto in our solar system.
Fifth: Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life. But it already shows just how many Earth-size planets could be out there. Two planets closest to the host star have already shown signs of no puffy atmosphere, meaning they are potentially rocky in nature.
Sixth: TRAPPIST-1 holds the record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.
— NASA (@NASA) February 22, 2017
The discovery of the planets doesn’t mean the end of the job for NASA. The space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope is already screening four of the planets, three which are inside the habitable zone. Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler will do initial surveys of the exoplanets ahead of NASA’s launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.
According to NASA’s statement, the new Web telescope will “detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet’s atmosphere,” along with temperature, surface pressure, etc to know if these planets can be inhabited by life in the future.
With agency inputs