A total of seven Earth-like, potentially habitable worlds have been discovered orbiting a nearby star known as TRAPPIST-1. Just 40 light-years away, the star’s diminutive size and dim light output mean it is known as an ultracool dwarf.
ESOcast 96 explores this important discovery, from how the astronomers made the incredibly intricate measurements required to find and study the planets — including observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope — to each world’s potential to support life as we know it. Excitingly, three of the planets in the system orbit in the habitable zone around TRAPPIST-1, and could harbour oceans of water on their surfaces.
Dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1 are very common in our galaxy, making rich planetary systems like this some of the best targets in humanity’s search for life elsewhere in the Universe. This ESOcast takes you on a journey through one such system, which contains both the largest number of Earth-sized planets and the largest number of potentially habitable worlds ever discovered.
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