February 22, 2017
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced today (Feb. 22) it has found seven Earth-sized planets – three of which are firmly within a habitable zone – around a star about 40 light years away from Earth.
The discovery, by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is historic in several ways. It sets a record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside Earth’s solar system, and – although the chances of finding liquid water are highest on the three habitable-zone planets – all seven planets could have liquid water under the correct atmospheric conditions. Liquid water is an important element because it is key to life as understood on Earth.
The planetary system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, which was used to find the first three planets in the system.
Robert Morehead, director of Texas Tech University’s Preston Gott Observatory and an instructor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, recently completed his dissertation on exoplanets and systems with multiple planets are his particular interest. He can discuss the implications of the discovery for the potential of extraterrestrial life and for scientists’ understanding of the galaxy.
Robert Morehead,Preston Gott Observatory director and instructor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, (806) 834-7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope around
a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets are
firmly in the habitable zone.
Click to enlarge.
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The department offers the Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and in cooperation with the College of Engineering, also offers courses leading to the Bachelor of Science in engineering physics.Society of Physics Students at Texas Tech University
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