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Scientists discover seven exoplanets the size of earth

24 February 2017

Astronomers have always been interested in the so-called Goldilocks zone, the area around a star where the surface temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to make possible for liquid water that can support life to exist.

This is the first time so many habitable planets have been discovered orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star. All of these seven planets could have liquid water - a key to life - under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

"We're making a step forward with this - a leap forward, in fact - toward answering that question", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington said during a presentation.

Scientists are trying to find as many exoplanets as possible. The Hubble Space Telescope has begun looking at four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. Seven Earth-sized planets, known as exoplanets, have been discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

"We have got even more encouraging data that's going to help support our search for life in the universe", Batcheldor said.

NASA also noted that the planets may be locked into the star, meaning one side of the planet will always be in daylight, and the other side in permanent night. According to scientists' observations, the inner six exoplanets also have a icy surfaces and an atmosphere that could potentially sustain life.

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Trappist-1g is the largest planet in the system, with radius 13 per cent larger than Earth's.

Their sun, or "star", has scientists fascinated because it is much smaller than our own, with an estimated one-tenth the mass of our sun and about one-thousandth its brightness.

So far, astronomers have already found nearly 3,500 exoplanets; those are planets orbiting stars that aren't our sun.

"One expert at NASA says this is the most exciting result he's seen in 14 years". "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets".

In a few billion years, when the sun dies and our solar system has ceased to exist, Trappist-1 will still be an infant, astronomer Ignas Snellen, wrote in a related essay in Nature.