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Just Discovered Planets And Jupiter's Moon Europa Has Something In Common

Meet Trappist-1, just 40 light years away from us. As far as stars go, it’s the schoolyard pipsqueak. It burns 6,500 cooler than our own Sun, barely warm enough to fuse. Hydrogen atoms into Helium. But something exhilarating is orbiting Trappist-1. More specifically, 7 exhilarating things: Dwarf planets that may just be able to harbor life. 

Thanks to the Spitzer Space Telescope, Astronomers found them by watching the star for 21 days. They detected a faint dip in brightness every time one of the planet passed in front. Three of the planets in particular are in the so-called “Goldilocks Zone”. Meaning they’re theoretically warm enough for ice to melt into liquid water.

But cool enough to ensure that water doesn’t vaporize. And liquid water is very good for life, as you as a human might have noticed. The other four planets are more peculiar. All the planets’ orbits are so tight, they actually tug on one another. This leads to tidal forces that could warm the four planets outside the Goldilocks Zone. As is the case with Jupiter’s moon Europa, which might have a liquid ocean locked under ice. The next step for scientists is determining the composition of planets’ atmospheres. They’ll net be looking for oxygen bur carbon dioxide and ozone strong signals of life. This could tell lot about whether other life exists at all in the Universe.



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