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Scientists To Launch SPECULOOS In Search For Planets Orbiting 1,000 Dwarf Stars

Still thinking that there is no other life in the universe? Chances are you got it wrong because it is no longer a sterile world out there in the universe.

Scientists wax hot to launch another planet-hunting project called Search for Habitable Planets Eclipsing Ultra-cool Stars hoping to find more extrasolar planets or exoplanets possibly orbiting in 1,000 dwarf stars nearest to Earth.

Next year, NASA will also seek to find thousands of worlds in space with its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission.

Not The First Time Exoplanets Are Found But ...

A team of astronomers announced in a paper published in Nature on Feb. 22 the discovery of a total of seven exoplanets basking in the cool red light of TRAPPIST-1 that lies some 39 light-years from Earth.

The discovery of the seven-planet system is not new but it is the first to have Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in the star's "habitable zone." The rest of the seven exoplanets also have the potential to support life where lakes and rivers are believed to exist on its surface.

The three alien, Earth-size exoplanets were spotted as they passed in front of their host star, TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star, the mass of which is only 8 percent that of the sun.

"To have this system of seven is really incredible," Elisa Quintana, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said.

It is more likely the nearby dwarf stars, numbering around 1,000, "might harbor lots and lots of planets."

What The Discovery Of The 7 Exoplanets Tells Us

The discovery of these temperate, Earth-size worlds is "a giant, accelerated leap forward in the search for habitable worlds, and life on other worlds," Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, declared.

Her assessment is not without basis. The proximity of the seven exoplanets to the Earth offers an opportunity for astronomers to study their atmospheres with greater ease that could reveal a wealth of information on the diversity of worlds not possible before.

The seven-planet system is widely seen as a laboratory to better understan the evolution of small planets, University of Colorado Boulder astronomer Zachory Berta-Thompson said.

Planet hunting in the past usually focused on bigger and brighter stars just like the sun, overlooking in the process the numerous dwarf stars nearby.

The discovery of the exoplanets came as a sort of vindication for astronomers who trained their sights on the cool, dim stars known as M dwarfs.

Many More Of TRAPPIST-1

"These small stars had been completely overlooked," Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium, said.

Gillon leads the team behind TRAPPIST 1. The team reported the first three exoplanets around the host — Jupiter-like size TRAPPIST-1 — last year.

TRAPPIST-1, according to Seager, is "the most exciting one so far, but we hope to have many more of these, and lots of chances to find signs of life in the future."

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