Washington: Researchers from the University of Liege in Belgium have used the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope to observe the star 2MASS J23062928-0502285, which is also known as TRAPPIST-1.
A team of astronomers led by Michael Gillon of the Institute d’Astrophysique et Geophysique found that this dim and cool star faded slightly at regular intervals, indicating that several objects were passing between the star and earth.
A detailed analysis of the study showed that three planets with similar sizes to the earth were present.
TRAPPIST-1, which is an ultracool dwarf star, is much cooler and redder than the sun and barely larger than Jupiter.
Researchers observed that despite being so close to the earth, this star is too dim and too red to be seen with the naked eye or even visually with a large amateur telescope. It lies in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Carrier).
Researchers showed the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 have sizes very similar to that of earth. Two of the planets have orbital periods of about 1.5 days and 2.4 days respectively, and the third planet has a less well determined period in the 4.5 to 73 days range.
The study will open up a new direction for exoplanet hunting as around 15 percent of the stars near to the sun are ultra-cool dwarf stars.
The study also highlights that the search for exoplanets has now entered the realm of potentially habitable cousins of the earth.
The study is published is the journal Nature. (ANI)