NASA announced the discovery of three potentially habitable planets very close to Earth.
Scientists used the Spitzer Space Telescope to find seven Earth-sized planets in orbit around the star TRAPPIST-1, which is just 40 lights years away.
The star in question is much cooler than our sun, but three of the planets are likely in its “Goldilocks Zone,” making them potentially habitable.
“Finding a second earth isn’t just a matter of if, but when,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said during a press conference Wednesday. “Imagine how many worlds out there have a shot of developing a habitable ecosystem which we could explore.”
Scientists were even able to estimate the size and density of the planets. The researchers are currently using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine if these planets had atmosphere. One of the potentially inhabitable planets, dubbed TRAPPIST-1E, is very similar in size to Earth and likely has very similar temperatures. Another called TRAPPIST-1F is potentially covered in water.
It would take roughly 39 years to travel to these planets at light speed.
The space agency was unusually secretive about the announcement, saying in a press statement that it will “present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets.” NASA will publish the new research in the science journal Nature.
NASA announced in May that its Kepler Space Telescope found 1,284 new exoplanets, or planets, outside our solar system. Roughly 550 of those exoplanets could be rocky planets, like Earth, based on their size. Nine of these exoplanets orbit in their stars’ “Goldilocks Zones.”
Some exoplanets closely resemble Earth and are a few of the best places to look for alien life. European astronomers identified a planet very similar to Earth in August, around the star Proxima Centauri. Scientists don’t currently know if the planet, called “Proxima b,” has an atmosphere or possesses a magnetosphere, but there’s already a lot speculation about the possibility of life there.
Scientists consider Proxima b a good candidate for supporting life. Initial reports suggest Proxima b has a rocky surface, is close in size to Earth and circles its star closely enough to be relatively warm. Proxima b is likely in Proxima Centauri’s “Goldilocks Zone.”
Research suggests life on Proxima b would be subject to frequent planet-wide extinction events since it’s close in proximity to Proxima Centauri.
If life did develop on Proxima b, it may exist in a relatively primitive microbial form, NASA scientists previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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