By Nell Greenfieldboyce
A small, faint star relatively close by is home to seven Earth-sized planets with conditions that could be right for liquid water and maybe even life.
The discovery sets a record for both the most Earth-sized planets and the most potentially habitable planets ever discovered around a single star.
The strange planetary system is quite compact, with all of these worlds orbiting their star closer than Mercury orbits the sun, according to a newly published report in Nature.
“If you were on the surface of one of these planets, you would see the other ones as we see the moon, or a bit smaller,” says Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium. “The view would be very impressive.”
The cool, reddish star is about 40 light-years away, in the constellation Aquarius. “It’s a very tiny star,” says Gillion, “10 times smaller than the sun.”
Until recently, no one was even looking for planets around so-called ultracool dwarf stars.
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