Not just one, but seven Earth-size planets that could potentially harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for biological signs of alien life outside of the solar system.
The planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light years, or about 235 trillion miles, from Earth. That is quite close, and by happy accident, the orientation of the orbits of the seven planets allows them to be studied in great detail.
One or more of the exoplanets – planets around stars other than the sun – in this new system could be at the right temperature to be awash in oceans of water, astronomers said, based on the distance of the planets from the dwarf star.
Science is awesome.
This system has six earth-sized planets in the habital zone – our own sun has three (Venus, Earth, and Mars)
Five of these plants have a density comparable to Earth.
Of the six, three are close enough where the mantles may be heated by gravitational forces, increasing the odds of active geology, which may be a prerequisite for a stable, life supporting atmosphere.
Finally, because they pass between us and their host star, and because their star is an ultracool dwarf, it gives us the chance to study the atmospheres of each planet.
Even cooler, if there are aliens, they would have a star 5x bugger in the sky than our sun is, and on closest approaches, neighboring planets would be twice as large in the night sky as our moon.
That’s quite a sky to live under!