A NASA telescope discovers TRAPPIST-1, a solar system with seven planets like Earth.They have announced it in Press Conference a few hours ago. A dwarf and cold star at 40 light years blanket a planetary system that could harbor life.
Scientists have pointed out that at least seven Earth-sized planets orbit around the cold dwarf star of that system, known as TRAPPIST-1. The six inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100 degrees Celsius.
Of the discovered planets the following is known:
- This system is only 39 light years from Earth.
- The planets have between 0.4 and 1.4 times the mass of the Earth and its approximate size is similar to that of our planet.
- The frequency with which they turn around the star varies from a day and a half to 20 days.
- Scientists believe that every planet in the system always shows the same face to the star.
- The atmosphere of some planets could be similar to that of Earth or Venus.
- Although experts say surface temperatures allow the presence of liquid water, the planets are too far away to prove they harbor it.
- Surface temperatures range from zero to 100 degrees Celsius.
- It is believed that at least three of these worlds could have oceans, which increases the likelihood that they will harbor life.
- None of the planets have a moon, although they are so close to each other that they would look like the Moon from Earth.
- The planets are much closer to their star than in the Solar System: if TRAPPIST-1 took the place of the Sun, all their planets would be within the orbit of Mercury.
- This solar system was probably formed 500 million years ago, while our Sun was formed 4.5 billion years ago.
“This system is going to be one of the best labs we have to understand the evolution of small planets,” said Zachory Berta-Thompson, an astronomer at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Because the system is so close to Earth, astronomers can study the atmospheres of the planets relatively easily. That could reveal an amazing diversity of worlds covered with rocks or ice.
The six inner planets probably formed further from their star and then migrated inward. Now they are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact, pushing each other in ways that allowed the team to estimate the mass of each planet.
The arrangement of so many Earth-sized planets together will be a boon to researchers working to compare how worlds evolve, according to Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium.
The Guillon-led team searched for new planets with the help of two 60-centimeter telescopes located in Chile and Morocco, and in May last year announced the discovery of three planets orbiting around TRAPPIST-1. At first they detected the slight obscuration of a planet and followed it, research in whose development the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope ‘observed’ the space body during 20 consecutive days.
Then they saw that what they thought was only one planet were actually four, after which they could observe the rest, including the seventh and the furthest of them all. After investigating them, Guillon concluded that probably the six planets closest to the star formed outside its orbit, but were later drawn towards it.
“It is a Rosetta stone with seven different languages, that is, seven different planets that could give us completely different perspectives on planetary formation,” says Julien De Wit, a member of the scientific team.
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