FEB 23, 2017 9:08 AM PST

Astronomers Spot 7 Earth-Like Exoplanets Orbiting a Nearby Star

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Astronomers are quite excited this week after announcing in a study in the journal Nature that a nearby star by the name of TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star approximately 40 light years away from us, has at least seven Earth-like exoplanets that could very well be capable of supporting life.

An artist's impression of TRAPPIST-1 and its seven Earth-like exoplanets.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

These seven exoplanets have been named in order outwards from their star: TRAPPIST-1b, c, d, e, f, g and h. This is the highest number of Earth-like exoplanets ever found in a single neighboring star system before, which in itself is a record-breaker.

The exoplanets were found when astronomers were observing the TRAPPIST-1 system and noticed fading of the host star at regular intervals. It was obvious that at least three existed in the system, but finding the other four reportedly took a little bit of extra poking around.

According to the study, the seven exoplanets are all rocky and at least three of them exist in the star’s habitable zone. One of them is a bit far from the habitable zone, making it potentially icy there, and the other three are just a bit closer to the star, which makes them a bit warm. Regardless, all of the planets are rocky, rather than gassy like Jupiter.

As for those three that are comfortably placed in the habitable zone, on the other hand, experts say it’s possible that watery oceans exist on these planets. They look to be around the same size as Earth in addition to sharing a lot of similar qualities.

For what it’s worth, the temperatures of these three potentially ocean-hosting exoplanets would be a bit cooler than Earth is, but if there’s even a slight chance that the exoplanets have enough greenhouse gasses in their atmosphere, then they could be warm enough for life-suitable conditions.

The star itself is a very tiny star, amounting to only about 8% of the Sun’s size. Because it’s an ultra-cool dwarf planet, it’s also cooler, dimmer, and redder in comparison. This also means the star gives off significantly smaller amounts of radiation than our Sun does.

Its seven exoplanets all orbit TRAPPIST-1 in paths that are smaller than Mercury’s to our Sun, which might seem like the exoplanets would be too hot to live on, but given the circumstances of how cool and small the host star is, this isn’t the case and their positioning is proportionately correct as compared to our own Solar System.

"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," Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium said in a statement.

Astronomers will undoubtedly be continuing to study this marvelous system to learn more about the seven Earth-like exoplanets. After all, if we are able to find liquid water on the surface of another exoplanet, it would be one of the largest eureka moments in all of astronomy, as it could point to life.

Source: Space.com

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
NOV 14, 2020
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have found that the rings in Earth's ancient trees may hold evid ...
DEC 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why is the Sun's Outer Atmosphere Hotter than its Surface?
DEC 29, 2020
Why is the Sun's Outer Atmosphere Hotter than its Surface?
The fact that the Sun's distant atmosphere is significantly hotter than its surface has been a topic of confusion in ...
JAN 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
JAN 23, 2021
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
New research conducted by scientists from Rice University aims to investigate places on Mars that harbor similar geologi ...
FEB 06, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Why Does Saturn Tilt?
FEB 06, 2021
Why Does Saturn Tilt?
Two scientists from France have figured out why Saturn sits at a tilt. And they say that over the next few billion years ...
MAR 08, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Newly observed quasar jet sheds light on early galaxy formation
MAR 08, 2021
Newly observed quasar jet sheds light on early galaxy formation
New observations from the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and Very Long Baseline ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Improving the Accuracy of Space Weather Predictions
JUN 08, 2021
Improving the Accuracy of Space Weather Predictions
When magnetized plasma is released from the surface of the sun in a phenomenon known as coronal mass ejections, they can ...
Loading Comments...