By Zoe Mixon
Astronomers have found 7 new planets that are 40 light years away. This is one of the largest solar systems that has ever been discovered outside of our planet. The planets are located around a dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Astronomers say that this discovery is rare because the 7 planets are all around the same size as Earth and could potentially support life. Michael Gillon says, “This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star.”
Now comes the question that everyone is thinking about, could there be life on these planets. Well turns out, there definitely could be. All seven planets are a little bit colder than Earth so they could support life. Six out of the seven planets are warm enough to potentially have liquid on them. Astronomers are confident that they will be able to get a more indepth look at the planets with future space telescopes. TRAPPIST-1f, one of the planets that orbits the star TRAPPIST-1, is the planet most suitable to support life. It definitely could support life with the right atmosphere and enough green house gasses. According to the mass of the planets, the planets could be rocky, unlike Jupiter that is a gas planet. Since the planets are so alike to Earth that makes the chances even bigger of there being life on the planets. This makes these planets a big part of finding out if there is really life out there. Amaury Triaud said, “I think we have made a crucial step forward into finding if there is life out there,” She also said “Researchers hope to find out if there is life on the planets within a decade.”
Another big question is how did they find these planets. They came across these planets by looking at a red dwarf star. These types of stars are popular targets for exoplanet hunters because it is easier to look at planets around them. (An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star other than the sun.) At first NASA thought they found five planets but they actually found seven. NASA found them by looking at the star as the planets passed across TRAPPIST-1. As the planets pass in front of the star, you can see the outline of them because it blocks out the star’s light. By seeing the outline of the by passing planet, NASA was able to assume the mass and size of them.
As you can see, astronomers have already found out a pretty good amount of information about these planets. They have estimated sizes, weights, and even how hot or cold it gets. If they know this much about them by just seeing the outlines of the planets, I can’t wait to see what they find next!