Seven Earth-sized terrestrial planets have been discovered orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star. They’re the most promising target yet in the search for life outside our solar system. 40 light years away, the planets are—like Earth—terrestrial rocky worlds that could support life under the right atmospheric conditions. “The seven planets are temperate. This means that they could have some liquid water and maybe, by extension, life on the surface,” said lead author Michaël Gillon.
When planets pass in front of a small star, in this case TRAPPIST-1, they cast a shadow that allows scientists to determine their size and orbit. A handful of these “transits” allowed the researchers to identify three initial planets in the system from a ground telescope last year. After conducting further observations, including 20 days of continuous observation from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, they have now witnessed 34 clear transits and attributed them to seven different …
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