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NASA discovers seven Earth-size planets: all you need to know (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper III)

Why is this discovery important?
Unlike earlier discoveries of exo-planets, all seven planets could possibly have liquid water — a key to life as we know it on Earth — with three planets having the greatest chance.

This is by far the largest collection of Earth-like planets in the habitable ‘Goldilocks’ zone of a star — neither too close nor too far from a star, which raises the possibility of liquid water being present on the surface. Only Earth has liquid water in the solar system.

Why is this name given?
NASA has named the system of planets after the ‘Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope,’ which is located in Chile. This telescope first discovered three of the planets in May 2016. These exoplanets are located outside of our solar system and orbit a star.

Why is the discovery of these Exoplanets such a big deal, and what should you know about them?
1. The star in TRAPPIST-1 is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, which NASA points out is in contrast to our Sun. The ultra-cool dwarf has a lower mass than the Sun, and also much lower temperatures. What this means is even if planets are orbiting close to the dwarf sun, it is so cool that liquid water will be able to survive on these planets.

2.  The planets are Earth-sized. The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star.

3.  Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life.

4.  TRAPPIST-1 holds the record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

What are habitable zones/goldilocks?
In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), or simply the habitable zone , is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure.



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