Exoplanet Discovery: Seven Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting a Nearby Star

On February 20 2017, Nasa made an announcement that they have discovered 7 earth sized planets only 40 light years away. They said that 3 of them are in the habitable zone, meaning we could potentially find signs of life there. “The researchers hope to know whether there is life on the planets within a decade,” Amaury said. “I think we’ve made a crucial step in finding out if there’s life out there,” he said.

Astronomers reported a year ago, that they found the nearby star, which they called Trappist-1, but while looking through the telescope, they found what looked like 3 shadows crossing the sight of the star every once in a while. After observing, and recording for 21 days, they found out that there are not 3, but 7 earth sized planets that are circling the star.

Nasa said that the orbiting period for the planet ranges from 1.5 days, to 20 days, unlike our planet which takes 365 days to orbit the sun. “This is really something new,” Ignas Snellen, an astrophysicist at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands said. “When they started this search several years ago, I really thought it was a waste of time. I was very, very wrong.”

The structure of the planets and the sun suggest that it was formed deep in the milky way galaxy, but it was pushed inward, and was stuck. The planets are so close to each other and the star, that there are seven of them within a space five times smaller than the distance from Mercury to our sun. Standing on the surface of one of the planets, you will get 200 times less light than from the star, but you will also get the right amount of energy to keep you warm.

Although 40 light years doesn’t sound a lot, it would take us millions of years to reach the planets, that’s why in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched, and positioned 1 million miles away from earth to get a good view of the exoplanets. Are we alone in this universe? Well soon enough that question might finally get its answer.

Saad Abouzahr