Today, everyone’s favourite space agency NASA announced a record-breaking discovery that’s blown the socks off the science community around the world. The North American Space Agency revealed that their Spitzer Space Telescope has shown the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. What’s even better is that three of the discovered planets reside in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have water!
The planets reside in the system known as TRAPPIST-1, and even though it might sound like the stage name of a shitty Soundcloud rapper, it’s a pretty big deal. Aside from the possibility that these planets might have water, a pretty important element in creating and harbouring life, the discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside of our solar system.
TRAPPIST-1 is also relatively close to us, only around 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth. The planets are very close to each other, if someone were to stand on the surface of one of the planet’s then they’d be able to have a gander at the geological features of neighbouring worlds. Imagine, if you will, a Rick and Morty type situation, where huge planets hover in the sky before us.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, praised the discovery as a major piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal,” he said.
The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which basically means that each side is either perpetually day or night. This could mean that these planets have completely different weather patterns to those on earth, it also means that one side of these planets may have a thriving nightlife, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
Have a look at this shweet visual rendering that NASA did, showing what it might look like to stand on the surface of one of these planets.
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