NASA Technology Discovers Seven “Earthlike” Planets
NASA technology has found seven planets with features that resemble Earth and are rotating around a star. This makes them the strongest candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life among planets outside of our solar system. These new planets all inhabit another solar system which includes seven planets that have rocky terrain and a relatively warm climate.
These are promising signs in terms of identifying starting points for the search for both water and life. The planets all orbit TRAPPIST-1, a so-called ‘ultracool dwarf’ star. The TRAPPIST-1 star is a tenth the size of Earth’s sun, and gives off around a quarter of the radiant heat. The planets are much closer to the sun, as well. The one closest in has a ‘year’ (the time it takes it to orbit the star) of a little over one day, and the one the furthest out completes its own annual cycle in 20 days.
Discovering the TRAPPIST-1 system and its terrestrial planets was a giant milestone. Before the discovery, we were basically limited to four candidates, one of which was our own. These new celestial bodies the size of Earth were originally found when scientists were studying the TRAPPIST-1 star they had been observing since 2015, and noticed decreases in the star’s brightness, caused by the momentary occlusion of the star by the passage of three of the system’s planets across its surface. NASA has been quick to temper expectations from observers who think this might signal favorable possibilities in terms of the discovery of alien life. The likelihood is slim, and it is early yet in terms of figuring out if the planets have other characteristics they share with Earth beyond rockiness and relative warmth owing to their placement in the so-called “habitable zone” of TRAPPIST-1, like whether they even have atmospheres and the presence of water or other gases like oxygen. According to NASA scientists, discovering this many planets orbiting a star so close with basic Earth-like characteristics is a promising sign.