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TRAPPIST-1 Discovery: A 'Giant Leap' In Finding Alien Life

First Posted: Feb 24, 2017 03:56 AM EST
TRAPPIST-1
Three of the star's orbiting planets lie within its Goldilocks zone.
(Photo : NASA Spitzer/YouTube screenshot)

A team of astronomers just discovered seven Earth-size exoplanets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Some of these planets are reportedly within the star's habitable zone, which gives scientists hope in discovering extraterrestrial life.

As per NASA's press release, the exoplanet system located about 40 lightyears away from Earth was spotted with the use of the space agency's Spitzer Space Telescope. Three of these planets lie within TRAPPIST-1's habitable zone, often called Goldilocks zone, which could possibly be a home to oceans, lakes and rivers. As liquid water indicates a planet's habitability, scientists are planning to conduct further studies that may lead them to finding potential alien life.

"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," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Space.com reported that a team of international astronomers announced in a news conference on Wednesday that this discovery could be a guide in finding more habitable planets. 15 percent of the stars in the Sun's neighborhood is believed to be ultra-cool dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1, which means there could be more exoplanets yet to be discovered.

"With this discovery, we've made a giant, accelerated leap forward in the search for habitable worlds, and life on other worlds, potentially speaking," said planetary scientist Sara Seager from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is not part of the discovering team. "With this amazing system, we know there must be many more potentially life-bearing worlds out there, just waiting to be found," she added.

TRAPPIST-1 was named after the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, which first discovered three of the orbiting planets in May 2016.

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