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2/22/17

Outer Space:Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star

Astronomers have discovered seven new planets which may host liquid water. Their find shows that Earth-like planets are even more common in the universe than previously thought.

It is not the first time astronomers have found Earth-like planets outside our solar system.
But, it is the first time they have found so many of them at one time around one single star.
Michaël Gillon from Liege University in Belgium, and his colleagues, discovered seven new planets - their size all comparable to that of Earth.

"All of them could have liquid water and maybe life on their surface," said Gillon, co-author of the study published in the "Nature" magazine on Wednesday .

The newly discovered planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star only one tenth the size of our sun, and about as big as Jupiter. TRAPPIST-1 lies 39 light years away from Earth.

All seven planets - simply called: 1b, 1c, up to 1h - are quite close to TRAPPIST-1, much closer than Earth is to the sun.

This is because TRAPPIST-1 is much smaller and cooler than the sun. The habitable zone, where it is neither too cold nor too hot and thus allows for the existence of liquid water, moves closer to the star compared to our solar system.

Do we have neighbors out there?

TRAPPIST-1 is not very bright, so sunbathing on its planets could be a rather unsatisfying experience.

"We think the amount of light that you would receive in your eye would be something like 200 times less than you would from the sun. It is like at the end of sunset," co-author Amaury Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, said.

But the star is still brighter than our moon and it will still feel quite warm on these planets, Triaud added. "You still receive as much energy from the star - and you will feel that with your skin."
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Most of the star's light is in the infrared spectrum which we cannot see. Triaud speculated that the sky might be painted in a "salmony" color.

Nobody knows what the surface and climate of these planets might be like, if there is liquid water, or even life.

"We don't know how life emerges. If life emerges in an ocean and there is an ocean there, then there won't be a problem. But if life is born elsewhere, then maybe the conditions are different."

Then the chances of life might depend on the amount of detrimental radiation that those planets receive from the star.

Read more: Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star | Science | DW.COM | 22.02.2017

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