Besides being close to the size of Earth, the planets are all temperate enough to potentially have water on the surface. This means they also have the potential to support life. “This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,” said lead study author Michaël Gillon.
The chances for water are greatest for the three planets in the habitable zone. These are TRAPPIST-1e, f and g. So these planets could potentially support life, even if there is no life currently on them.
"I think we've made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there," said astronomer Amaury Triaud. “I don't think anytime before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was [life].” So more research needs to be done before determining if any of these planets have life. [Editor's note: Oh, please, please have life on them.]
The planets are orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, which is actually an ultracool dwarf star. It's 40 light-years away, which would take millions of years to get to from Earth. But in research terms, it's relatively very close.
An ultracool drawf star is one that is smaller and cooler than a regular-sized star. This means planets can be closer to the orbiting star while still having liquid water. In fact, all seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 are closer to it than Mercury is to the sun in our own solar system.
Next up, the researchers want to determine the atmosphere of each planet, and find out if they have liquid water. They'll also look for other signs of life on the planets. In addition, they'll also look for similar star systems that have not yet been discovered.
Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center said, “This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations.” He added, “More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.” Whether or not that means finding extraterrestrial life remains to be seen. [Editor's note: Again, please have signs of life. PLEASE.]