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Nasa discovers new solar system TRAPPIST-1 - where life may have evolved on three planets

Life may have evolved on at least three planets within a newly discovered solar system that is 39 light years from Earth, it was announced last night.

Astronomers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) have detected no less than seven roughly Earth-sized worlds orbiting a dwarf star in the system, it was announced today.

Scientists had previously only identified a tiny number of so-called “exoplanets”, which are believed to have the qualities needed to support life.
However, the new system contains an unprecedented number of Earth-sized, probably rocky planets, and is being hailed as an “accelerated leap forward” in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Three of the new planets are said to be particularly promising because they could sustain oceans. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate, told a press conference in Washington: “This gives us a hint that finding a second Earth is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.”

The planets were detected using Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories. Lead researcher Michaël Gillon, of the University of Liège, said: “The planets are all close to each other and very close to the star, which is very reminiscent of the moons around Jupiter.

“Still, the star is so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water – and maybe life, by extension – on the surface.”

The team determined that all the planets in the system are similar in size to Earth and Venus, or slightly smaller. And density measurements suggest that at least the innermost six planets are rocky. Because the star is so dim, the planets are warmed gently despite having orbits much smaller than that of Mercury, the planet closest to our Sun.

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2/24/17
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Clear, calm weather and near-perfect launch conditions paved the way for NASA's Scientific Balloon Team's launch of two balloons this week. Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/2daX6oA

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The first flight of NASA's Space Launch System will do double duty as a platform to launch 13 cubesats that will provide more research as NASA's plan their journey to Mars: http://go.nasa.gov/2dE8hJa

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Pandora's Cluster, seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, has gravity so strong that it acts as a lens to magnify images of more distant background galaxies. Details: http://go.nasa.gov/2dDTD4Q

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NASA will push the limits of the fuel tanks that will power their Space Launch System rocket, using new test stands at Marshall Space Flight Center. The massive rocket is set to take humans farther into deep space than we have ever traveled: http://go.nasa.gov/2dAIP7v

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Water swirls seen in reflections off the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, north of Prince Edward Island: http://go.nasa.gov/2d7velj

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Each time a rocket blasts off to deliver a primary payload into space, it typically does so with room to spare. Now we're using that unused capacity to accommodate less-expensive, off-the-shelf instrument components: http://go.nasa.gov/2d7qe08

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Science starts with a question, which leads to new discoveries and answers. Explore these discoveries and answers on our redesigned Science at NASA site: https://science.nasa.gov/

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Possible water plumes spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope erupting on Jupiter's moon Europa: http://go.nasa.gov/2d4xgTj

Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/2d4wrdm

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NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passed its initial instrument check with flying colors as it speeds toward a 2018 rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/osiris-rex-instrument-checkout-status-update
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