ON FEBRUARY 19th, in the shadow of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Boston’s Copley Square saw a small but determined pro-science rally by those worried about what the newly installed President Trump might mean for the world’s scientific superpower. “There is no Plan(et) B” read one sign. That is true, for now. But although astronomers have yet to discover a twin of the Earth, they have found several close cousins.
On February 22nd a team of researchers led by Michaël Gillon, from the University of Liège, in Belgium, announced several more. As they outline in Nature, Dr Gillon’s team believe that seven roughly Earth-sized worlds circle TRAPPIST-1, a tiny star that lies around 40 light years from Earth (the star’s rather striking name refers to the TRAPPIST telescope, in Chile, which did much of the planet-hunting work). Several other solar systems have been found with Earth-like planets, but to find seven such worlds orbiting a single star is unprecedented.
Even more intriguingly, the fourth, fifth and sixth of those planets lie within the star’s habitable zone, where water on a planet’s…Continue reading
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