Possibly habitable planets discovered outside our solar system

In an exciting discovery towards the direction of finding planets that may be able to support life, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Interestingly, three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water, the basic requirement for the sustenance of life as we know it.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington was quoted as saying, “This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life”. The discovery of so many planets in the habitable zone is also being considered as a remarkable step towards the goal of answering another profound question viz. are we alone in the Universe?

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets. This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile.  However latest studies conducted at Harvard University question the possibility of life sustaining conditions in the TRAPPIST-1 system. According to these simulation studies, intense radiation and particles streaming from their host star have likely taken a huge toll on all seven of these worlds. "Because of the onslaught by the star's radiation, our results suggest the atmosphere on planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system would largely be destroyed," Avi Loeb, co-author of one of the studies, said in a statement. 

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. Credits: JPL.NASA.GOV

Link to source article: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around

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