By Analee Gentzel
February 23, 2017
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or better known as NASA, hosted a news conference Wednesday, February 22 on a discovery of a new solar system of planets that orbit stars other than the sun called exoplanets. Astronomers have called this new system the Trappist-1 system.
The NASA Spitzer Space telescope discovered a total of seven planets and to have similarities to Earth and may have the ability to hold liquid water. Three of the seven were looked further into to find that they are in a habitable zone.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science and Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
According to NASA, these planets may be tidally locked on the star, meaning the planets do not rotate so the planets’ “time clock” is locked on day or night. This also means they could have different weather patterns than what we have on Earth and experience extreme temperature changes.
Manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, said, “This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations.” He continued, “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up.”