Expolanetes: Seven cousins of the Earth discovered around a nearby star

More than 39 light years beyond our solar system, another star system has the potential for six or seven earthlike planets, according to a NASA study published Wednesday.

Scientists will shortly hold a news conference at the headquarters of United States space agency NASA in Washington to announce a significant discovery linked to exoplanets - meaning planets that orbit a star other than the sun.

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NASA announced Wednesday that three of the seven planets are "firmly" in the zone habitable to life.

These planets sit about 40 light-years (or about 235 trillion miles) away within the Aquarius constellation. "Answer 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 toward that goal".

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All of the planets are very close to the dim star they orbit, which means they are tidally locked like our Moon and so have one side in permanent darkness.

Trappist-1 is a dwarf star that's about a tenth the mass of our Sun and a thousandth as bright. NASA has provided further details in a video: The planetary system was detected by the TRansiting Planets and PlanetIsmals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. They found three planets last May but the data from a collection of Earth-based and orbiting telescopes soon revealed the full count of seven planets. What makes this planet special is that it resides in its host star's Goldilocks zone, where conditions are most optimal for liquid surface water to form. Since they're located outside our solar system, they're technically exoplanets.

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The James Webb Space telescope, set to launch in 2018, is expected to give scientists an even better look at potentially life-harboring worlds like those around Trappist-1. "They could have liquid water and life". There is special interest in planets that orbit in a star's habitable zone.


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