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What's Next After the Discovery of Seven Earth-Size Planets?

2/24/17 9:10 AM

Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is celebrating as astronomers make a remarkable discovery is the search for inhabitable environments. Wednesday, NASA announced that its Spitzer Space Telescope found seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single star about 40 light-years away from Earth. The discovery set a new record for the greatest number of inhabitable planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

The parent star has been dubbed the TRAPPIST-1, after the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile, which originally revealed three of the seven planets in the system back in May of 2016. Much different from our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, which means it's so cool that liquid water could even survive on the planets closest in orbit.

According to NASA, all seven planets could have liquid water and could be habitable under the right atmospheric conditions, but only three are in the habitable zone. Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets have rocky conditions, with the seventh and farthest planet believed to be an icy, "snowball-like" world.

Unlike our solar system, all seven TRAPPIST-1 planets are very close to each other. So close together astronomers say a person standing on the one of the plant's surface could see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds. The planets are also tidally locked to their star, so each side is either continually day or night, which means their weather patterns consist of strong winds and extreme temperature changes.

NASA plans to follow up on the discovery next year with the launch of the James Webb telescope. The telescope will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen and other components of potential atmospheres. The telescope will also analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressure, which are all key to assessing their habitability.

To ensure the instruments being sent into space can withstand the harsh environments, extensive testing is performed beforehand. Data loggers are often used during research and development to obtain a complete environmental profile to ensure reliability prior to deployment. To view the entire line of data logger designed specifically for the aerospace industry, click here.

To read more about the discovery, click here.

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