NASA has officially announced discovery of exoplanets which are Earth sized and can hold life. These are named so because they are out of our solar system and orbit a star. Here is every thing you need to know about this discovery.

A system of seven planets in a system called TRAPPIST-1 is the highlight. NASA has named the system after ‘Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope,’ which is located in Chile. This Telescope discovered three planets in this system earlier in May 2016.

According to NASA, the European Space telescope called Spitzer along with other telescopes confirmed two of these planets. In addition to these two, five more planets were discovered by Spitzer. So NASA is putting seven number of planets now.

NASA points out the star in TRAPPIST-1 as ultra-cool dwarf which is in contrast to our Sun. It has much lower mass and temperature according to the Sun. This means that if planets are orbiting close to the star, even then the liquid water will be able to survive on these planets. The ultra cool star shines 200 times dimmer than the Sun and it glows red.

NASA’s telescope shows that planets are closer to the star as the Mercury is to the Sun. According to NASA’s own press statement “If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.”

Unlike Earth which rotates around the Sun, the planets are tidally locked to the star. This means that one side of the planet has only day and other side has only night. It also means that weather conditions are different from the Earth.

“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon who is lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium in NASA’s press statement. “It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”

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According to Spitzer data, the first estimate of the mass of the six planets have been developed. NASA predicts that based on the density of the planets they seem to be rocky and presence of water is yet not confirmed. It will be determined by more observations. It seems like the seventh planet is an icy, snow world which might be somewhat similar to Pluto in our solar system.

Scientists said that they need to study the atmosphere of these rocky, terrestrial planets before determining that they can support life or not. Two planets closest to the star have already shown sign of no puffy atmosphere, meaning they are potentially rocky in nature.

TRAPPIST-1 holds the record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

The Space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope is screening four of the planets, three which are in the habitable zone. Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler will do the initial surveys of the exoplanets ahead of NASA’s launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

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According to NASA’s statement, the New Web telescope will detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone and other components of planets along with temperature etc to see if these planets can support life in future or not.

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