Space & Astronomy
Excitement mounts over Earth-like exoplanets
By T.K. Randall
July 20, 2016 · 10 comments
Have astronomers discovered two potentially habitable alien worlds ? Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have identified two distant worlds which could be ideal places to look for alien life.
The two planets, which can be found orbiting the star Trappist-1 at a distance of approximately 39 light-years from the Earth, are situated within what is known as the Goldilocks zone - a region in which the temperature is just right to enable liquid water to exist on a planet's surface.
When these two worlds were discovered back in May there was much excitement as the conditions there seemed to make them prime candidates in the hunt for habitable extrasolar planets.
Now scientists have revealed that these two distant worlds are not only an ideal distance from their parent star but also appear to be rocky terrestrial planets like the Earth and Mars as oppose to gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn - another major factor in favor of their suitability for life.
"These are the first planets that combine the three key properties we have been looking for for quite a long time," said MIT's Dr Julien de Wit. "One, they are Earth-sized; two, temperature, they could have liquid water; and third, they are close enough and around the right type of star for us to actually check [for evidence of life]."
"In five to 10 years we will be able to say if they are habitable, to check if they are the right temperature and with water. And then the next step forward is to assess whether they are inhabited… to look for traces of gas that can only be produced by life."
"This can be done in the next 10 to 25 years."
The hunt for extraterrestrial life, it seems, could soon become very interesting indeed.
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