Earth-sized planets have been discovered - a mere 40 light years away

The Arc of Discovery artistic concept features NASA's astrophysics missions searching for signs of life beyond Earth

The Arc of Discovery artistic concept features NASA's astrophysics missions searching for signs of life beyond Earth

The planets form a system surrounding Trappist-1, a star in the Aquarius constellation. Four telescopes named SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) based in Chile willsurvey the southern sky for this goal.

A group of global scientists have announced that a dwarf star just 40 light years from the Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water and life. Not all are within the habitable zone of their stars, but a handful are rocky, warm planets.

The TRAPPIST-1's planets are similar to the inner solar system around Earth's sun, Demory's analysis of data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope showed.

Preliminary calculations based on the motions of the seven planets suggest they are all "terrestrial, rocky worlds", said Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist with the University of Liege in Belgium who led the worldwide team that announced the find on Wednesday. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones.

NASA has revealed new findings about planets which orbit stars other than our sun, known as "exoplanets", at a special press event in Washington, DC.

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If TRAPPIST-1 sounds familiar, that's because these researchers announcedthe discovery of three initial planets orbiting the samestar in May.

"With this wonderful system, we know that there must be many more potentially life-bearing worlds out there just waiting to be found", said Seager, who is a Toronto native and University of Toronto graduate. "The most exciting thing is they are ideal for atmospheric study".

The first expo-planet was discovered in 1992 and since then astronomers have catalogued more than 3,500 worlds in 2,675 star systems. This means that if you traveled at the speed of light (186,282 miles per second), it would take 40 years to reach the planets.

Because the TRAPPIST-1 is so small, the planets are packed in very close togetherr. That is enough time for time to life to evolve, it is thought.

Whether that's good or bad depends on what kind of world you are. Observatories like NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, could analyze these planets' atmospheres, perhaps providing important clues. After we are gone, if there is another part of the universe for life to carry on, it may be in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

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