As promised on Monday, NASA has announced new exoplanet findings, namely the discovery of seven new exoplanets, some of which may contain the key ingredients for life. This discovery is a phenomenal one, further fleshing out the space agency’s past exoplanet announcements with a roster of new celestial bodies to investigate. Not much is known about these exoplanets at the time, but what we do know is fascinating.
NASA calls this a ‘treasure trove’ of planets, and for good reason. According to the space agency, these exoplanets are Earth-sized and all seven of them revolve around the same star, making this the first single-system of seven large planets in the habitable zone discovered by humans.
A total of three of the seven planets are described as being ‘firmly located’ within that coveted habitable zone, while one planet in particular described as ‘rocky’ is said to be the most likely of the bunch to hold liquid water, though it is possible that all seven of the planets may contain some level of liquid water.
The presence of liquid water would require the right atmospheric conditions, and it is possible that not all of them will end up with that feature. Regardless, Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said, “This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conductive to life.”
These seven planets are located in the Aquarius constellation and they are, relatively speaking, fairly close to our own planet at about 40 lightyears, or about 235 trillion miles. There’s not much known about these planets except that the last one in line, the one furthest from its sun, may be icy, a winter wonderland type of world perhaps minus the wonderland part.
The solar system isn’t exactly like our own, of course. Unlike our own star, this system’s star — called TRAPPIST-1 — is what is known as an ultra-cool dwarf, meaning that relatively speaking, planets can be very close to it and still maintain the presence of liquid water. All of these planets are said to be very close to both each other and to their star, so close that a person standing on one planet may be able to look up and make out the geological details of the nearest neighboring planet.
As well, NASA researchers say the weather may be quite different from Earth because it is possible the planets are all tidally-locked with the star. If that’s the case, the planet wouldn’t have day/night cycles, but instead would be perpetually day on one part and perpetually night on the other.
Though of course we don’t know exactly what the landscape on the surface of these planets looks like, NASA has created a VR simulation of one of the planet’s, TRAPPIST 1-d, which you can enjoy below.