New Worlds, New Discoveries

New Worlds, New Discoveries

Fri March 3rd, 2017

On Feb 22nd, an international team led by Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège in Belgium and including EAPS postdoc Julien de Wit made the front cover of Nature with news about their discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby star just 39 light years from Earth.

All seven planets appear to be rocky, and any one of them may harbor liquid water, as they are each within an area called the habitable zone, where temperatures are within a range suitable for sustaining liquid water on a planet’s surface.  The discovery marks a new record, as the planets make up the largest known number of habitable-zone planets orbiting a single star outside our solar system. Julien de Wit is heading up the team’s study of the planets’ atmospheres, the compositions of which may offer up essential clues as to whether these planets harbor signs of life.

To a standing-room-only crowd packed into 54-100 on Friday, Feb 24th to hear Drs. Gillon and de Wit speak about their discovery, and another 12K people around the world watched the lecture as it was livecast. If you missed it you can watch it here: 


MIT has a time-limited opportunity to become a full stakeholder in the SPECULOOS consortium if we can raise $1M to build a new SPECULOOS ground-based telescope to advance the search for exoplanets around ultracool dwarf stars. With $600K potentially secured,  we are seeking just $400K! If you would like to help, please contact Angela Ellis at or at 617-253-5796. READ MORE.

Related stories:

Lucky Seven (MIT News)

The Heart of a Far-off Star Beats for its Planet (MIT News)

First Atmospheric Study of Earth-sized Exoplanets Reveals Rocky Worlds (MIT News)

Scientists Discover Potentially Habitable Planets (MIT News)

3 Strange Worlds Circling A Cool Star Might Be Prime Spots To Support Life (NPR News)

First Temperature Map of a "Super-Earth" Reveals Lava World (MIT News)

A Highly Eccentric Exoplanet (MIT News)