Researchers announced on Wednesday the discovery of a nearby solar system with seven Earth-sized planets, three of which circle their parent star at the right distance for liquid surface water, bolstering the prospect of discovering extraterrestrial life.
To celebrate the incredible discovery, Google has an animated doodle that shows the discovery of the seven planets through a telescope by the earth, with moon by its side.
The doodle shows the earth lighting up and the moon cheering at the discovery of the seven planets.
The newfound planets orbit a small star, known as TRAPPIST-1, which is a dim celestial body in the constellation Aquarius. It is located about 40 light years away from Earth, close by astronomical standards, but about 44 million years away at the average cruising speed of a commercial passenger jet.
Researchers said the proximity of the system, combined with the proportionally large size of its planets compared to the small star, make it a good target for follow-up studies. They hope to scan the planets' atmospheres for possible chemical fingerprints of life.
"The discovery gives us a hint that finding a second Earth is not just a matter of if, but when,” NASA chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The discovery, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, builds on previous research showing three planets circling TRAPPIST-1. They are among more than 3,500 planets discovered beyond the solar system, or exoplanets.
(With inputs from Reuters)