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article imageNASA makes major announcement about exoplanets

By Tim Sandle     Feb 22, 2017 in Science
Houston - NASA has made a major announcement about a new discovery “beyond our solar system.” The discovery relates to seven exoplanets, which could potentially support life.
NASA has unveiled important new findings about exoplanets. These are planets that orbit other stars outside of our solar system rather than the Sun. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1988; since then, to date (February 22, 2017) some 3, 584 exoplanets have been detected. One reason for the interest in exoplanets is the potential for some of them to support life. There is special interest in planets that orbit in a star's habitable zone. This is because it is possible for liquid water, a prerequisite for life on Earth, to exist on the surface of such planets.
The announcement from NASA not only furthers the numbers of detected exoplanets, it is also of scientific interest. This relates to a star located some 40 light-years from Earth. Here seven rocky worlds are huddled around a small, dim, red star. In theory, NASA has reported. any of them could harbor liquid water. The most likely planet to support life is the fourth planet that orbits the TRAPPIST-1 star. This is because the planet lies within the habitable zone, defined as the area around the star where liquid water is most likely to be detected. In total three of the planets are directly in the star’s habitable zone and they probably have water-based oceans. In all the discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph about the news, British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, who works at Liverpool John Moores University, stated: "The discovery of multiple rocky planets with surface temperatures which allow for liquid water make this amazing system an exciting future target in the search for life."
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. TRAPPIST is a Belgian optic robotic telescope, which came online in 2010; the Spitzer telescope is an infrared space telescope launched in 2003. It is the fourth and final of the NASA Great Observatories program.
NASA has added a further video which imagines the surface of the fourth planet. The images provide a 360-degree panorama depicts the surface of a newly detected planet, TRAPPIST-1d:
The realism of the video is aided by this world’s sister planets being seen as bright points of light in a dark sky.
The discovery has been reported to the journal Nature, in a research paper titled "Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1."
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