NASA Reveals Largest Batch of Habitable Planets to Date Around a Single Star

NASA has spent years refuting the idea that life could exist anywhere else in the solar system, let alone our galaxy, yet, today NASA is proclaiming that not one, not two, but SEVEN potentially watery planets are rotating around a single star in a solar system not far from ours – a veritable copy-cat of Earth, and other planets in our solar system, perfectly capable of supporting life as we know it.

Artist rendition of Exoplanets. Credit: NASA

As far as mainstream astronomy is concerned, this is a veritable treasure trove of life-supporting exoplanets. It is even more interesting that these exoplanets are all “earth-sized.”

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has uncovered the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Several of the newly discovered planets are well within what is called “the habitable zone,” the area around a parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water – as in rivers, lakes, and oceans – and a known key to life.

Many scientists believe life evolved from alkaline hydrothermal vents on Earth. A hot fluid created from water which percolated down into newly formed rock under the seafloor where it reacted with minerals like olivine, producing a warm, brothy fluid rich in hydrogen, sulphides, and additional chemicals in a process called serpentinisation.

This hot fluid welled up into vents like those at the Lost City, a system discovered near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 2000.

This latest NASA discovery sets a record for the largest number of life-supporting planets found around a single star outside our solar system. It is possible that all seven planets could have watery surfaces.

The exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. It is about 40 light-years or 235 trillion miles from our own watery planet, in the constellation Aquarius.

Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven from research conducted a few years ago.

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington said,

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life. 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.”

What is even more remarkable, however, are the estimates of just how many life-sustaining planets could exist in the Universe.

Astronomers have estimated 100 billion habitable Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, and 50 sextillion in the Universe.

These seven exo-planets are even less than a drop in the bucket, considering there is somewhere in the region of 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (5×1022) habitable planets, but at least NASA is doing a ‘soft’ disclosure that we are likely not alone.

Images: NASA

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