An international group of astronomers has discovered seven potentially habitable exoplanets — or planets outdoors our solar method — that could have liquid surface water, according to a paper published nowadays in the journal Nature.
"The discovery gives us a hint that obtaining a second Earth is not just a matter of if but when," Thomas Kutcher, an associate administrator of the science mission directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, stated at a news conference right now.
It is a major step forward, he said, in answering the age-old query "Are we alone out there?"
Although it is unclear irrespective of whether any of the seven exoplanets can harbor life, astronomers mentioned they all could have liquid water — the essential to life as we know it.
The recently found planets have been nicknamed Earth's seven sisters and have masses and rocky compositions related to our planet's, scientists mentioned.
3 of the seven planets are deemed to be in the habitable zone, or the region about a star where a rocky planet is most probably to have liquid water, researchers added.
Astronomers pointed out that the seven planets orbit TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star that is a great deal younger than our sun and must burn for an additional 10 trillion years — extra than 700 times longer than the universe is believed to have been in existence. That is "arguably adequate time for life to evolve," an article in Nature reported.
TRAPPIST-1, named soon after the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Tiny Telescope project, is about 39 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from Earth. It is in the constellation Aquarius.
Astronomers noted that they are awaiting the scheduled launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 to decide the exoplanets' situations, such as atmospheric composition and climate. That telescope is expected to be substantially more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope can detect molecules like water, methane, ozone and oxygen — which can then assistance scientists figure out a planet's habitability and possibilities of harboring life, according to Nikole Lewis, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
The discovery of the planetary program suggests that Earth-size planets are substantially more abundant and typical in the Milky Way galaxy than previously thought, researchers said.
"With this amazing method, we know there will have to be a lot of extra potentially life-bearing worlds out there waiting to be identified," mentioned Sara Seager, a professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The astronomers who found the exoplanets said they will be ramping up their efforts to find and identify other planets about smaller stars in the vicinity of our sun by means of the Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-Cool Stars (SPECULOOS) project.
In addition, NASA mentioned it plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space telescope that will commit two years browsing for planets in orbit about extra than 200,000 of the brightest stars in the sky.
"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the initial Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this sort of star," stated Michael Gillon, the lead author of the paper published in Nature and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege in Belgium.
He added at the NASA news conference nowadays that the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system is a really promising indicator for the search for life beyond Earth.
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