An international team of astronomers has discovered three Earth-like exoplanets orbiting the dwarf star now known as TRAPPIST-1. Maybe in a few years, with the help of powerful new telescopes, technology like this will become the guide in the search for habitable worlds outside the solar system.
Until then, there is not much known yet about the characteristics of any of these three planets, since they might exist in very different environments than the Earth.
Astronomers discovered this with the use of the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory located in Chile. This discovery is highly significant, not only because the three planets have Earth-like properties, but because they are relatively close – just 40 light years away – and they are the first planets ever discovered orbiting such a dim star. If they have similar properties to the Earth, it could also mean that they could harbor life.
Earth 2.0 on an Ultracool Dwarf
These are the first exoplanets ever discovered around an “ultracool dwarf” star. And also, they could be the first planets ever discovered when it comes to the search for alien life.
Each planet is similar in size to Earth or Venus and probably rocky. The planets all skirt the edge of the so-called habitable zone. These potential Earth twins are so close to us that it could be starting a study of their atmospheres to see if they’re habitable at all.
Julien de Wit, co-author of this study stated that this was basically a paradigm shift. De Wit also said that if these planets have atmospheres, they really are the best places to look for life. So maybe aliens truly exist? Let’s wait for it.
Also, Michaël Gillon from the Belgium’s University of Liège and lead researcher of this study said that this is a brand new planetary population that is revealed, and it could well dominate the total number of planets in the Milky Way.
“What is super exciting is that for the first time, we have extra solar worlds similar in size and temperature to Earth—planets that could thus, in theory, harbor liquid water and host life on at least a part of their surfaces — for which the atmospheric composition can be studied in detail with current technology,” said Gillon.
With the discovery of multiple exoplanets orbiting a small dwarf star, this might also suggest that there could be a large number of undiscovered planets orbiting similar stars.