We’ve all looked at the stars and wondered if there were other planets up there. The answer has turned out to be, thousands of times over, yes, and there are plenty of potential Earth-like planets to boot. But NASA’s latest discovery is the most exciting yet: A solar system in the constellation Aquarius with seven Earth-like planets, including three in the “habitable” zone of the star they circle, just 235 trillion miles away.
The system in question is called TRAPPIST-1, named after the Chilean telescope that found it, and interestingly, it’s an unusual system to accommodate life. The star in TRAPPIST-1 is a “cool” dwarf star, meaning that planets much closer to it may be habitable or at least more friendly to life than planets closer to our own sun. All seven planet also have orbits closer than that of Mercury to the sun, which means if you were standing on one, another planet would fill the horizon.
That said, they may not be habitable, or at least they might be tougher to move onto than our own planet. NASA believes some of these planets are tidally locked, that is, one side faces the sun at all times. That would potentially create extreme weather patterns and other disruptions that would make habitation in the sense of just setting up a new Earth a tough proposition. We also don’t yet know much about their atmospheres, potential biospheres, and other aspects. But this is a profoundly exciting discovery, and it may be only a matter of time before we show up to take a closer look.