NASA hosted a major press conference recently that promised to disclose a major “discovery beyond our solar system”.
The press conference, which was held in New York and streamed live on the NASA website, was attended by astronomer and planetary experts… It didn’t fail to deliver.
Thomas Zurbuchen of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ explained:
I am in awe today of the depth and breadth of what we have discovered. Today we can reveal that Dr. Mikhail has used our Spitzer Space Telescope and found that there are seven Earth-size planets, very much like our own, orbiting around the same nearby star about 40 light years away.
Three of them have the right atmospherical conditions on them suggesting that there could be water on any one of these planets.
This discovery gives us a hint that finding a second earth is not just a matter of if, but when. How many worlds out there are there that could be habitable?
Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars other than our Sun, referred to by NASA as “potential Earths”. Scientists also explained that if we were able to travel at light-speed we would be able to reach TRAPPIST-1, the main one of the newly discovered planets, in 39 years. A jet on the other hand would take 44 million years. Astronomers have claimed some may have the capacity to house the building blocks of life, and according to NASA, there are currently 3,449 confirmed exoplanets.
Many exoplanets have been discovered that resemble the planetary composition of Earth, and are a major source of hope in the search for life beyond our own planet.
Conference participants included Thomas Zurbuchen of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ; Michael Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium; Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Centre; Nikole Lewis, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute; and Sara Seager, a professor of planetary science and physics at MIT.
The agency will hold a Reddit AMA session straight after the briefing, and invites the public to ask questions via Twitter using the hashtag #AskNASA; and finally – Thomas Zurbuchen concluded that research into Exoplanets is currently in its “goldrush stage”. Sure sounds like there’s lots more fascinating information to come.