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New record: three potentially habitable exoplanets circling one star

Posted in Science on 26th Jun, 2013 03:20 AM by AlexMuller

Three planets circling three stars, and each a habitable place. The news surrounding the Gliese 667 system reads almost as if it were some kind of epic sci-fi prophecy. Heck, maybe it is. Compared to a lot of systems out there, Gliese 667 isn't exactly far from Earth. The 22 light-year distance between it and our own solar system almost sounds traversable someday. And it's a pretty interesting destination to contemplate.


Previously thought to have three planets, the triple star system (trinary?) has recently been discovered to not only be home to up to seven planets, but a whopping three of them are thought to reside in the system's habitable zone. That's one more than we've got here at home — even if you count Mars.


An international team of astronomers, led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé from the University of Göttingen, Germany and Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire, UK who made the recent discoveries. The team took existing data from telescopes all across the globe and combined it with new findings to create the new, much more complex image of the Gliese 667 system.


All seven of the system's planets, including the three potentially habitable ones, lie in orbit around Gliese 667's smallest star, Gliese 667c (see what they did there?). As such, the orbits of all three potentially habitable worlds lie within what would be Mercury's orbit around the same star. On top of being closer to their star, each of the three worlds is considered a super-Earth — larger than our own planet, but of similar composition.


Whether any of this means that humanity could survive in the Gliese 667 system, or even get there, is uncertain. But a system even more laden with potentially habitable worlds than our own is something humanity just might keep our collective eye upon well into the future.

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