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LHS 1140b: Another planet in habitable zone discovered

Astronomers have discovered yet another planet, called LHS1140b, which is expected to be present in the Goldilocks Zone. It’s not so far away, either. It is found orbiting around the star LHS 1140 some 39 light-years away.

Goldilocks Zone refers to a habitable zone where the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

The planet is found to be rocky, like the Earth but is over six-times as massive as Earth and about 1.5-times larger and falls under the category of ‘Super Earth’. Its gravitational pull will be three times stronger than that of the Earth. Rocky planets within the habitable zone are the best candidates to find evidence of some form of life.

Super Earth: These are planets that are bigger and more massive than Earth and yet smaller and less massive than the next biggest planet, Neptune.

The very close location of the planet will make it easier for the astronomers to study its atmosphere and look for signs of life in the near-future. The study of a planet’s atmosphere is vital to look for signs of life. If the atmosphere is found to be thick and filled with carbon dioxide, like Venus, then it can be concluded that it would be too hot to hold life or water. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is too thin and wispy like Mars, then all the water will get locked up as ice.

The first planet outside our solar system was found out in 1995. With the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, the discovery of planets has become easier. So far, astronomers have identified 52 potentially habitable planets and around 3,600 planets outside our solar system. With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.

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Astronomers discover 7 new Earth-sized exoplanets that may sustain life

Astronomers from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for the first time have discovered seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life.

The planets were detected using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories including Trappist robotic telescope at La Silla, Chile. 

Key Facts
  • These exoplanets are orbiting dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away. They could have some liquid water and maybe supporting life.
  • Of the seven planets, three are classified as TRAPPIST-1 e, f and g. These three planets orbit in the habitable (so-called Goldilocks zone) where temperatures are suited to surface oceans of liquid water.
  • The star Trappist-1 is at least 500 million years old and has a temperature of 2550K. It is marginally larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun.
  • The 6 inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Their masses range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth.
  • They are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact with each other. However, their atmospheres needs more study before determining whether they could support some type of life. 
Astronomical terms
  • Exoplanet: It is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet.
  • Goldilocks Zone: It refers to a habitable zone in space where the temperature is neither too high nor too low. Such conditions could allow for the presence on the planet’s surface of liquid water – a key ingredient for life.

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