The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
'Amazing Discovery': 7 Earthlike Planets Found Orbiting Dwarf Star
By Andrea Germanos
While the Trump administration continues to wage a war on science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday shared "remarkable" findings: seven 'Earthlike' planets in the habitable zone of a single star "relatively close" to the planet we call home.
"This is an amazing discovery," said Yale University astronomy Prof. Deborah Fischer to MSNBC. "On a scale of one-to-ten, this is off the scale. This is jaw-droppingly exciting," she added.
Located in the constellation Aquarius and about 40 light-years away from Earth, these rocky exoplanets (so called because they're outside our solar system) could all potentially hold water. They are around the TRAPPIST-1 star, which is slightly larger than Jupiter. It's an "ultracool dwarf" star, which means, according to a NASA press statement, that it is "so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system."
Three of the exoplanets were discovered using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile in 2016, with the additional four being discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The findings were also laid out Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star," said Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.
"This discovery," added Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, "could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to 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," Zurbuchen said.
The TRAPPIST-1 website offers more details on the newly discovered system and NASA Spitzer has this new video about how it came together:
Furthering the public dissemination of the information, a group of NASA scientists and exoplanet experts took part Wednesday in a Reddit AMA, where they provided more details on the discovery and next steps.
"[T]o find, identify and announce" an oxygen-rich atmosphere is hopefully just years away, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at MIT. Natalie Batalha, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center expected that "the surface gravity of most of these planets is similar to that on Earth" and said that being able to see things like potential vegetation or surface features like continents would require technology beyond that held by NASA's James Webb Telescope, which launches in 2018.
Still as NASA explained, it "will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures–key factors in assessing their habitability."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Hector Chapa
With the coronavirus pandemic quickly spreading, U.S. health officials have changed their advice on face masks and now recommend people wear cloth masks in public areas where social distancing can be difficult, such as grocery stores.
But can these masks be effective?
By Carey Gillam
Bayer AG is reneging on negotiated settlements with several U.S. law firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sources involved in the litigation said on Friday.
With many schools now closed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may be looking for activities to keep your children active, engaged, and entertained.
Although numerous activities can keep kids busy, cooking is one of the best choices, as it's both fun and educational.
Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.