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Has a NASA telescope just found life beyond Earth?

23 February 2017

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets that could possibly be habitable!

This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have discovered seven Earth-size planets in a solar system. Three of these planets are thought to be habitable and have access to water.

This new discovery sets a record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. This could be the key to finding life on other planets!

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “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.”

The system of these seven planets is called TRAPPIST-1 and using data from the telescope, scientists have been able to measure the size of the planets and develop an estimate as to their masses. NASA deems that the planets are most likely to be rocky but further observations need to be conducted to confirm whether or not they are rich in water.

All seven of these planets are relatively close to one another and NASA claims that “if a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds.”

Following on from the Spitzer discovery, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope will be screening four of the planets, including three inside the habitable zone. Follow up studies will also be conducted in 2018 using the James Webb Space Telescope. As this telescope has a greater sensitivity, it will be able to determine the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen and other components on the planet’s atmosphere. 

To read more details on this amazing discovery, visit the NASA website.

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