Are we alone?

Nasa discovers new solar system where life may have evolved
Current affairs | 23 February 2017

Top image: Artist’s concept shows what each of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may look like, based on available data about their sizes, masses and orbital distances.

NASA have announced the discovery of a new solar system – Trappist 1 – containing planets similar to Earth that could potentially support life.

Using the Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground based observatories, astronomers have detected the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets around a singular star. Three of these planets sit firmly within the “habitable zone,” the area around the star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water and is the right temperature to allow life to flourish.The discovery sets a new record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside of our solar system. According to the researchers at NASA, “All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it.”

At approximately 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. What’s more, scientists may soon be able to find evidence of life on the planets. British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, from Liverpool John Moores University, who was part of 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 tourist poster for TRAPPIST-1 released by NASA

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