NASA announced Wednesday that it has found an entire solar system that could potentially support life. Some 40 light-years away lies a grouping of seven planets, all roughly the size of Earth, orbiting closely around a single dwarf star. Scientists initially reported the system last year, but at that point they only knew of three planets orbiting the star.
The discovery, uncovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, sets the record for "the most Earth-sized planets and most potentially habitable planets ever discovered around a single star," NPR reported. NASA noted in a press release that all seven of the planets could have "liquid water — key to life as we know it — under the right atmospheric conditions." "This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Answering the question 'Are we alone?' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."
Scientists plan to further explore the solar system. But already, University of Leiden astronomy professor Ignas Snellen said, the discovery indicates these systems are "even more common than previously thought."