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BREAKTHROUGH: NASA Announces Discovery of the Largest Batch of Earth-sized Habitable Planets

In a recent press conference held on 22 February 2017, NASA announced the discovery of no less than seven Earth-sized planets orbiting around a habitable zone of a single dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1. Life may have evolved on at least three planets in a newly discovered solar system just 39 light years from Earth. 

The six inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Of these, at least three are thought to be capable of having oceans, increasing the likelihood of life.

NASA

British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, from Liverpool John Moores University, who co-led the international team, said: “The discovery of multiple rocky planets with surface temperatures which allow for liquid water make this amazing system an exciting future target in the search for life.”

A robotic telescope operated by Liverpool John Moores University played a major role in the discovery reported in the journal Nature. It was one of a number of ground-based instruments that supported observations made by American space agency Nasa’s orbiting Spitzer telescope.

Dr Copperwheat said: “As a robotic telescope and the largest in the world, the Liverpool telescope is very sensitive to the small, less-than-1-per-cent dips in brightness through which the planets are discovered. It’s all automated, it’s flexible and fast, and so is ideal for this sort of time critical work.” 

Here’s how the new planets stack up against ours

NASA

This system of seven rocky worlds–all of them with the potential for water on their surface–is an exciting discovery in the search for life on other worlds. There is the possibility that future study of this unique planetary system could reveal conditions suitable for life.