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Are we alone in the Universe or there is Alien life? Astronomers spot nearby Star with seven Earth-size Planets

astronomers have spotted a nearby star with seven Earth-size planets which could harbour liquid water, key to life as we know it, NASA said.

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What will happen to exploration missions if NASA runs out of fuel? Wikimedia
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Washington, Feb 23, 2017: In a remarkable step towards answering the question “Are we alone in the universe”, astronomers have spotted a nearby star with seven Earth-size planets which could harbour liquid water, key to life as we know it, NASA said.

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius.

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All of these seven planets could have liquid water under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with three of the plants which are located in the habitable zone, according to the researchers.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile.

“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium.

“It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds,” Gillon said.

In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system.

Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer space telescope confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky, according to the new results published on Wednesday in the journal Nature

Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surface.

The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated. But scientists believe it could be an icy, “snowball-like” world, but further observations are needed.

The discovery of the seven exoplanets sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star — classified as an ultra-cool dwarf — is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system.

All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun.

The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in the Earth’s sky, NASA said. (IANS)

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NASA’s TESS Discovers New Worlds Only 5 Months After Its Launch

With four special cameras, TESS uses a detection method called transit photometry.

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TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018. NASA sent TESS into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. VOA

A planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system discovered two distant planets this week five months after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, officials said on Thursday.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, made an early discovery of “super-Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away, marking the satellite’s first discovery since its April launch.

TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission to expand astronomers’ known catalog of so-called exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars.

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TESS Deputy Science Director Sara Seager. VOA

While the two planets are too hot to support life, TESS Deputy Science Director Sara Seager expects many more such discoveries.

“We will have to wait and see what else TESS discovers,” Seager told Reuters. “We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found.”

TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super Earth” sized — no larger than twice as big as our home planet.

Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. Scientists have said they hope TESS will ultimately help catalog at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study in what has become one of astronomy’s newest fields of exploration.

 

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An artist’s concept provided by NASA shows the Keplar Spacecraft moving through space. VOA

 

MIT researchers on Wednesday announced the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 light-years away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days. The discovery of LHS 3844 b, a “hot-earth” planet 49 light-years away that orbits its sun every 11 hours, was announced on Thursday.

Pi Mensae c could have a solid surface or be a waterworld as the composition of such planets is a mixed bag, Martin Spill, NASA’s program scientist for TESS, said in a phone interview.

The two newest planets, which still need to be reviewed by other researchers, offer the chance for follow-up study, officials said.

Also Read: Parker Solar Probe of NASA Sends Back Its First Images

“That, of course, is TESS’ entire purpose — to find those planets around those brightest nearby stars to do this really detailed characterization,” Spill said.

With four special cameras, TESS uses a detection method called transit photometry, which looks for periodic dips in the visible light of stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them. (VOA)