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There Better Be Some Goddamn Aliens in This Solar System Loaded with Earth-Sized Planets

A newly discovered seven-planet system is our “best bet” for finding life.

by Bryson Masse
Feb 22 2017, 6:29pm

A tiny star just 39 light years away, a mere stone's throw in cosmic terms, hosts seven Earth-sized planets, according to new research published in  Nature. At least six of them appear to be rocky and temperate. Some could potentially have liquid water at the surface, and by extension, the right ingredients for life.

"This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star," said lead author Michaël Gillon, astronomer at the Université de Liège, who spoke to reporters in advance of the public announcement on Tuesday. "Looking for life elsewhere, this system is probably our best bet as of today," said co-author Brice-Olivier Demory, at the University of Bern, in a release that accompanied the news.

The newly discovered solar system has some significant differences to our own. Its host star, TRAPPIST-1, is what's called an "ultracool" red dwarf. It's only about eight percent of the mass of our Sun, and 11 percent of its radius. The seven planets orbit very snugly around this star: all are found within the distance of Mercury's orbit.

Most are tidally locked, so that one side always faces the star, while the other has a perpetual nighttime. (The researchers compared it to the Galilean moons of Jupiter, which are also tidally locked with their host planet.)

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