Astronomers find 7 Earth-size planets where life may be possible

Date: February 23, 2017

TRAPPIST-1

Astronomers have found a nearby solar system with seven Earth-sized planets, three of which circle their parent star at the right distance for liquid surface water, raising the prospect of life, research published on Wednesday showed.
The star, known as TRAPPIST-1, is a small, dim celestial body in the constellation Aquarius.

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It is located about 40 light years away from Earth. Researchers said the proximity of the system, combined with the proportionally large size of its planets compared to the small star, make it a good target for follow-up studies.

They hope to scan the planets' atmospheres for possible chemical fingerprints of life.

TRAPPIST-1 is named for the Transiting Planets And Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. The latest discovery is from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The discovery, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, builds on previous research showing three planets circling TRAPPIST-1. They are among more than 3,500 planets discovered beyond the solar system, or exoplanets.

Researchers have focused on finding Earth-sized rocky planets with the right temperatures so that water, if any exists, would be liquid, a condition believed to be necessary for life.