Feb 22, 2017

7 possibly habitable planets found orbiting 'nearby' star

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The planets discovered are similar in size to Earth and are temperate, according to NASA astronomers who spoke at a press conference this afternoon. The exoplanets orbit a star called TRAPPIST-1, which is named after the telescope located in Chile used to find the seven planets. The star and the exoplanets are only about 40 light years or 235 trillion miles away from Earth.

Why this matters: These seven planets could potentially host life since they have equilibrium temperatures low enough to have liquid water on their surfaces. Three of them (TRAPPIST-1e, f, and g) are within the habitable zone of the star, and these three may even have oceans. This is the first opportunity to search for signs of biological life outside of the solar system, according to the NYT.

How did they find it? The results come from a photometric monitoring campaign of the star from the ground and space, according to the article on the study published today in Nature. The team noticed shadows interrupting the starlight, which ended up being these planets crossing over the telescope's view of the star

Next up: Finding gases to support life on these exoplanets will be key to upcoming research. The astronomers claim there is a good signal to noise ratio, which means studying the rocky planets' atmospheres will be feasible. The James Webb Telescope will launch next year, which will help with the research, along with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Top candidate: Although TRAPPIST-1f is a bit cooler than Earth, if it has the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases the researchers expect it to be the most likely candidate to support life, according to CNN's report. The star would appear three times as big as the sun in our sky on TRAPPIST-1f, and everything would likely be tinged with a salmon-colored light.

Go deeper

The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A small percentage of people — called superspreaders — may be responsible for a large number of COVID-19 infections, research is starting to indicate.

Why it matters: While there's no method to detect who these people are before they infect others, there are ways to control behaviors that cause superspreading events — a key issue as states start to reopen and debate what types of events are OK.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,931,112 — Total deaths: 357,929 — Total recoveries — 2,388,172Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,711,313 — Total deaths: 101,129 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.