Back in February, you may remember our post about NASA's newly discovered TRAPPIST-1 solar system about 40 light years away from Earth.
Today marks one of significance for space exploration and planetary understanding. This year, Professor Stephen Hawking suggested that humans will need to vacate Earth within the next 100 years in order to survive as a species, as he claimed our planet may soon face a natural doomsday.
As far-fetched as this sounds, a new discovery made by NASA astronomers using the Hubble Telescope has revealed that 3 of the 7 planets within the TRAPPIST-1 solar system contain "substantial amounts" of water, or "oceans", and they actually look a lot like Earth.
All be it an artist rendition, planets D, E and F are now said to contain water, reinforcing any theory about ET life on these planets. B and C being too hot for living conditions due to it's close proximity to its sun, and G and H mainly consisting of ice.
NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said:
"This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life. Finding a second Earth isn't a matter of if, but when."
We've estimated that these planets are somewhere between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old. With Earth ageing in at just under 4.6 billion years, we're the younger sibling.
The discovery of water on these 3 planets is a huge step forward for establishing life outside of planet Earth, and will help fuel future experimentation. Such future observations of the TRAPPIST-1 solar system include taking measurements using the NASA Hubble Telescope, and the work in progress James Webb Space Telescope, said to be finished and launched in October 2018.
This work could help astronomers determine if the TRAPPPIST-1 planets have atmospheres, and then begin to characterise these atmospheres, if they exist.