NASA announced findings on a discovery outside our Solar System. No, it’s not aliens. It’s never aliens. Rather, NASA is eager to tell us about new exoplanets — planets that orbit stars other than our own — it has found.
The first step in finding life outside our own planet is to find a planet like our own: small, rocky, and at just the right distance from the star that liquid water could exist on its surface.
That’s why an announcement today from NASA is so exciting: The space agency, along with partners around the world, has found seven potentially Earth-like planets orbiting a star 40 light-years away.
“The seven planets … could have some liquid water and maybe life on the surface.”
Three of the planets are directly in the star’s habitable zone, meaning water can mostly likely exist on the surface of them.
The exoplanets orbit a star in the constellation Aquarius called Trappist-1. And it’s a solar system very different from our own.
For one, Trappist-1 is a tiny, “ultra-cool” dwarf star. It’s cool because it’s small: just about a tenth of the mass of our sun and about one-thousandth as bright. But its low mass allows its planets to orbit it very closely and remain in the habitable zone.
The distance at which the planets orbit Trappist-1 is comparable to the distance of Jupiter to its moons. All the planets are believed to be rocky, and are all believed to be around the size of Earth, give or take 10 to 20 percent.