Seven Earth-sized planets are circling a nearby dwarf star in tight, fast ellipses, and one of them is particularly the best candidate for supporting life, an international team of astronomers announced on Wednesday.
The discovery is rare because the exoplanets circling the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, which is 39 light years away, has so-many Earth-sized planets that are believed to be temperate, meaning they could have liquid water on their surfaces with a potential to support life.
Lead author Michaël Gillon, of the STAR Institute at Belgium-based University of Liège, said, “This is an amazing planetary system – not only because we have found so many planets, but because they are all surprisingly similar in size to the Earth!”
TRAPPIST-1 is only a little larger than the gaseous planet Jupiter in our solar system and burns nearly 2,000 times more faintly than our host star.
But, its three planets, dubbed TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, are believed to be in the habitable zone, and may even have liquid water oceans on the surface. Scientists are particularly interested in the TRAPPIST-1f, which could be suitable for supporting life with the right atmosphere and sufficient greenhouse gases.
Now, the possibility of an alien life on the newly discovered exoplanets hinges on the assumption of Earth-like atmospheres. It is worth-mentioning here that Mars falls in the Sun’s habitable zone, but it doesn’t have surface water.