In Brief

Nasa discovers solar system that may support alien life

Seven Earth-like planets found orbiting 'ultracool dwarf star' star known as Trappist-1

Nasa has found seven Earth-sized planets in close orbit around a dwarf star 39 light years from us, with at least three of them lying within the so-called "habitable zone", which means they might be capable of sustaining water and possibly life.

"No other star system has ever been found to contain so many Earth-sized and rocky planets, of the kind thought to be necessary to contain aliens," The Independent says.

Lead researcher Michael Gillon, from the University of Liege in Belgium, said the planets "are all close to each other and very close to the star, which is very reminiscent of the moons around Jupiter.

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"They could have some liquid water - and maybe life, by extension - on the surface," he added.

The planets were discovered orbiting a star known as Trappist-1, "an ultracool dwarf star, much smaller and roughly 200 times fainter than the sun", reports the Los Angeles Times, and were "detected using Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories", says the BBC.

It adds that the next phase of research "has already started to hunt for key gases like oxygen and methane which could provide evidence about whatever is happening on the surface".

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