|An artist’s conception of what the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. NASA/JPL-Caltech)|
All seven roughly match the size and mass of our own planet and are almost certainly rocky, and three are perfectly perched to harbour life-nurturing oceans of water, they reported in the journal Nature.
Most critically, their proximity to Earth and the dimness of their red dwarf star, called Trappist-1, will allow astronomers to parse each one’s atmosphere in search of chemical signatures of biological activity.
“We have made a crucial step towards finding life out there,” said co-author Amaury Triaud, a scientist at the University of Cambridge.
The Trappist-1 system, a mere 39 light years distant, has the largest number of Earth-sized planets known to orbit a single star.
It also has the most within the so-called “temperate zone” — not so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes rock-solid.
The discovery adds to growing evidence that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, may be populated with tens of billions of worlds not unlike our own — far more than previously suspected.
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