NASA discovers 7 Earth like planets that could hold life: Here’s all you need to know

NASA announced a new system of Exoplanets, which are Earth-size, and will potentially hold life. These exoplanets are situated outside of our solar system and orbit a star, that is why they are named so. Talk about an Earth-shattering discovery.

Scientists have spotted seven Earth like planets around a close-by star, some or all of that could harbor water and possibly life. That’s the largest cluster of planets like this yet to be found. The ultracool star at the heart of this system would shine two hundred times dimmer than our sun, a perpetual twilight as we all know it. And the star would glow red — maybe salmon-coloured, researchers speculate. So why is the discovery of these Exo-planets such a big deal, and what should you understand them? We break down the facts.

NASA discovers 7 Earth like planets that could hold life: Here’s all you need to know

Here are all the points you need to know about the latest Exoplanet discovery:

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

First: A system of seven planets in a system called TRAPPIST-1 is that the highlight of this discovery. NASA has named the system of planets after the ‘Transiting Planets and Planetesimals little Telescope,’ that is located in Chile. This telescope 1st discovered 3 of the planets during this system in May 2016. According to National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with the assistance of other huge telescopes and the European space telescope called Spitzer, the existence of 2 of these planets was confirmed. In addition to these 2, 5 additional planets were discovered by Spitzer. NASA is currently putting the whole number of planets in this system at seven.

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

Second: The star in TRAPPIST-1 is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, that NASA points out is in distinction to our Sun. The ultra-cool dwarf has a lower mass than the Sun, and also abundant lower temperatures. What this means is even if planets are orbiting close to the dwarf sun, it’s so cool that liquid water will be able to survive on these planets. The ultracool star shines 200 times dimmer than our sun. Therefore 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 nearer to the host star than planet Mercury is to our Sun. According to NASA’s own press statement, “If someone was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.”

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

Third: not like 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 not like what we experience on Earth.

Fourth: The planets are Earth-sized. “The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that are 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 information, 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’s like the seventh planet is an icy, snow world, which might remind some of Pluto in our solar system.

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

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 can be out there. 2 planets nearest to the host star have already shown signs of no puffy atmosphere, meaning they’re 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.

Here’s a quick look: Earth like planets

AGE OF AQUARIUS

This star system is less than 40 light-years from Earth or 235 trillion miles away, within the constellation Aquarius. At the hub is a little, faint star called Trappist-1. Seven planets circle Trappist-1, with orbits ranging from 1 ½ to 20 days. If Trappist-1 were our sun, of these planets would match within the orbit of Mercury. That’s how close they are to their star and why their orbits are thus short. The planets have no real names. They’re only known by letters, “b’’ through “h.” The letter “A” refers to the star itself.


GOLDILOCKS ZONE

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

Three of the planets are smack dab within the so called habitable zone, also called the goldilocks zone, wherever conditions are just right for water and life to flourish — not too much and not too little stellar energy. The four other planets are tantalizingly near the goldilocks zone— so close that they, too, could harbor water and potentially life. However just because a planet is during this sweet spot, doesn’t mean life exists or ever did. If aliens were observing our solar system from the Trappist-1 network, they may be saying, “Hey, there are 3habitable planets there, Venus, Earth and Mars,” said Sara Seager, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysicist who did not take part within the study. The point is, “let’s wait and see what’s out there,” she cautioned.

HOW’S THE VIEW?

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

Trappist-1, one of numerous ultracool dwarf stars out there within the galaxy, glows red. If you were to stand on one of the planets, the star might appear to be salmon-colored. Its planets are clumped so closely together, they would appear twice as big as our moon within the sky. The temperature can be pretty like Earth as well, at least on one of these planets.

NOW WHAT?

Earth like planets

Earth like planets

Scientists need to study the atmospheres of these almost assuredly rocky planets before jumping to any conclusions concerning water and life. The hubble space Telescope already is on the case. The still-under-construction James Webb space Telescope can join in once it’s launched next year. The Webb can search for gases that might be a by product of life: oxygen, ozone and methane. Scientists say it should take five years to get a handle on all these atmospheres, and figure out whether water — and perhaps life — are present. Altogether, astronomers have confirmed near 3,600 planets outside our solar system since the 1990s, however barely four dozen are within the potential habitable zone of their stars, and of those, just 18 are approximately the size of Earth.

The discovery of the planets doesn’t mean the end of the job for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The space agency’s hubble space Telescope is already screening four of the planets, 3 that are within the habitable zone. Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler can 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 can “detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet’s atmosphere,” along with temperature, surface pressure, etc to understand if these planets is inhabited by life within the future.

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