Our video this week comes on the back of the exciting discovery of seven Earth-size planets in a nearby solar system.
The planets orbit an ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, just 40 light years away. Three of the planets were discovered last year by scientists using Belgium’s Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope–South (TRAPPIST), located in the Chilean mountains at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. This led NASA to train its Spitzer Space Telescope on the star for 21 days straight, measuring the variance of the star’s light as planets transitioned.
In total, data from the Spitzer was able to identify seven rocky worlds, three of which are in the habitable zone where liquid water might be found. The James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2018, should reveal more about the nature of the planets by searching for chemical fingerprints of water, oxygen and methane. If detected, these chemicals would strongly suggest the presence of life.