Astronomers say that three potentially Earth like and habitable planets orbiting another star have been discovered using the technique that detects wobbles in light. In this instance the three planets are orbiting an ultra cool dwarf star much smaller than our own sun. The trio of new worlds are located about 39 light years from Earth. Their exciting discovery have opened up a new “hunting ground” in the search for alien life outside our home solar system.
The trio of Earth-like planets are very similar in size to our home planet of Earth. Each of these new worlds are close enough for their atmospheres to be analysed with existing technology we already have, scientists said. Furthermore their relatively close distance to our home world, although a prohibitive distance for travel with current technology means that they are close enough for future generations of space explorers to reach.
Perhaps within several generations. In other words future exploration by mankind maybe feasible if reasonable advances in technology come to pass and certain assumptions about human capability are met.
“This is the first opportunity to find chemical traces of life outside our solar system,” Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist at the University of Liege in Belgium, said.
How the Trio of New Worlds Were Discovered
Using a unique 60cm telescope based in Chile, the telescope is known as TRAPPIST, scientists and astronomers tracked several dozen dwarf stars not visible with optical ground based telescopes.
The telescope works by identifying the most promising candidate star. In this case the star is about one-eight of the size of the Sun. The next phase in the discovery programme is to observe the star for several months. After this time had elapsed scientists noticed its infrared signal faded or dipped slightly at regular intervals. This light phasing and dipping is a process of discovery that suggests it had local objects orbiting it such as planets.
The astronomical study concluded the size of these worlds and their proximity to the star. This gathered data meant all three planets could have surface regions at temperatures within a range suitable for sustaining liquid water and life. For example in the temperature range of Earth and Venus. More data will likely become known as these trio of new worlds garner focussed attention in the coming months and years.