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The Cosmos

NASA Discover Seven Earth-Like Planets That Could Sustain Life Orbiting Trappist-1 Star

"Researchers hope to know whether there is life on the planets within a decade..."

An artist’s impression of the view on the surface of the fifth planet from Trappist-1 (Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech).

*PULLS EXCITING NEWS KLAXON LEVER* NASA have just announced the discovery of seven worlds, similar in size to Earth, around a small yet relatively nearby star known as Trappist-1.

Trappist-1 is a dwarf star, roughly the same size as Jupiter. Although the newly discovered planets are far closer to it than we are to our own sun, the weak light from it (it’s reportedly about 2,000 times fainter than the light from our own Sun) means that the temperature on the planets should be temperate. By extension of this, the chance of liquid water and potentially life existing on them is greatly increased.

The solar system is about 39 light years from our own, so it’s not exactly a quick drive up the M1. But in space terms, 39 light years is nothing. 39 light years is a house at the end of the road, a neighbour you nod at knowingly in the supermarket.

Image via Space.com

The seven planets have dimensions similar to Earth, and range in size from 25% smaller to 10% larger. In terms of distances out from the star, the outermost planet from Trappist-1 is six-times closer to it than Mercury is to the Sun.

Standing on the fifth planet out from Trappist-1, thought to be the most habitable of the collection, the salmon-pink star would appear ten times larger in the the sky than the Sun does from Earth’s point-of-view. The close proximity of the other planets also means that, as they orbited Trappist-1, they would appear in the fifth planet’s sky up to twice the size of our own moon as seen from Earth.

With telescopic technology constantly improving, it is hoped that life may be discovered on the planets someday soon. Amaury Triaud, from the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University, said: “The researchers hope to know whether there is life on the planets within a decade,” adding that, “I think we’ve made a crucial step in finding out if there’s life out there.”

This news has astronomers, cosmos enthusiasts, and Mpora employees very excited indeed.

A guide to the various sizes of the planets in Trappist-1 (Image via Trappist.One)
Image comparing the differences in scale of the Trappist-1 solar system and our own.

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