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Seven Earth-sized planets orbit nearby supercool star

Three planets’ paths put them in TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone

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1:00pm, February 22, 2017
illustration of a seven planet solar system

PLANETARY LINEUP  Seven Earth-sized planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1 with short periods, from 1.5 to 20 Earth days. This artist’s illustration shows potential differences in the planets’ surfaces and sizes.

A nearby ultracool star harbors seven Earth-sized planets, three with orbits that potentially put them in a habitable zone. That makes the system, around a star called TRAPPIST-1, a prime target in the search for signs of alien life. Its discovery also hints that many more cousins of Earth may be out there than astronomers thought.

“It’s rather stunning that the system has so many Earth-sized planets,” says Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland in College Park. It seems like every stable spot where a planet could be, there is an Earth-sized one. “That bodes well for finding habitable planets,” he says.

Michaël Gillon, an astrophysicist at University of Liège in Belgium, and colleagues announced last year that they had found three Earth-sized planets around TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star previously called 2MASS J23062928−0502285 (

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