Earth-Like Planets Discovered and Eyed For Possible Presence of Water and Life

By Jenn Loro - 04 May '16 12:01PM

Searching for life beyond the confines of our very own planet, Earth, has been an ongoing obsession by astronomers. If a recent discovery is of any indication, finding Earth-like life elsewhere in the solar system may actually lie in the so-called three exoplanets located nearby.

An international team composed mainly of experts from MIT and the University of Liège in Belgium, seem to have discovered three planets that appear to be revolving around an ultracool dwarf star estimated to be 40 light years away from Earth. By the researchers' calculation the sizes and temperatures of these Earth-like planets could be roughly the same as Earth's and Venus.

Recently published in the scientific journal Nature, the astronomers think that exoplanets may be the other possible worlds where life might exist.

"What is super exciting is that for the first time, we have extrasolar worlds similar in size and temperature to Earth-planets that could thus, in theory, harbor liquid water and host life on at least a part of their surfaces-for which the atmospheric composition can be studied in detail with current technology," said senior researcher Michaël Gillon of the University of Liège as quoted by Popular Mechanics.

Using a 60-centimeter telescope called TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), scientists were able to discover the planets. The telescope is a highly advanced-designed device used to monitor 60 very small and cool dwarf stars nearby that are too faint to be detected using ordinary telescopes.

Since the nearby system is just 40 light years away or 240 trillion Earth miles from our planet, scientists may soon be able to carry out in-depth study about these planets' habitability.

"These planets are so close, and their star so small, we can study their atmosphere and composition, and further down the road, which is within our generation, assess if they are actually inhabited," said Julien de Wit as quoted by MIT News. "All of these things are achievable, and within reach now. This is a jackpot for the field."

How would the study affect humankind's current and even future efforts at uncovering the mysteries of the last frontier, the outer space?

"This really is a paradigm shift with regards to the planet population and the path towards finding life in the Universe," said co-author Emmanuël Jehin, USA Today reported.

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