Scientists discover 3 planets that may support alien life

  • 3 exoplanets, orbiting a brown dwarf star, were discovered by scientists 40 light years away from Earth and may potentially be habitable
  • Given the proximity of the 2 exoplanets to the dwarf star, they are suggested to be in the ‘habitable zone’ and may have water in the surface. Less is known about the 3rd
  • The international team of astronomers are now working to find water or methane molecules in the exoplanets

There may be life beyond our solar system. An international team of astronomers announced their discovery of 3 potentially habitable planets just 40 light years away from the Earth.

“These are not massive, hot, super exotic worlds,” said Julien de Wit, a postdoctoral associate in MIT that co-authored the study. “All three of them are close to one Earth [radius], and each of them could be suitable for life.”

They remained unnoticed until Michaël Gillon of the University of Liège in Belgium took a risk to study one of the dwarf stars.

“Before this discovery, the general opinion in the astronomy community was that ultracool dwarfs would form very small inhospitable planets — much smaller than the Earth,” Gillon said.

“The team took a big risk even looking for planets around these stars,” De Wit said. “But it has really paid off.”

From September to December 2015, Gillon spearheaded the research. He and his international team of astronomers used a telescope called TRAPPIST (transiting planets and planetesimals small telescope).

According to the LA Times, the 3 exoplanets orbit a host star, called TRAPPIST-1, which is what is known as an ultracool dwarf. It is about one-tenth the size of our sun and significantly cooler. 2 of the exoplanets, given their distance to the dwarf star, receive about 4 times the amount of radiation compared to Earth and our sun. This suggest that they are in the “habitable zone” and could have water on the surface. Less is known about the 3rd outer planet.

The discovery is only the beginning of a study that will continue for years. The researchers are now working on finding out if these exoplanets have water or methane molecules, CNN wrote.

“This is only the beginning,” De Wit said. “There is a big adventure ahead of us.”

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