Three potentially habitable and definitely weird planets have been detected orbiting an ultracool dwarf star that’s 40 light-years away from Earth. They’re too far to visit anytime soon, but close enough to spark interest from NASA and astrobiologists who want to study the conditions under which life could arise.
“Why are we trying to detect Earthlike planets around the smallest and coolest stars in the solar neighborhood? The reason is simple: Systems around these tiny stars are the only places where we can detect life on an Earth-sized exoplanet with our current technology,” Michaël Gillon, an astronomer from the University of Liège in Belgium, said in a news release from the European Southern Observatory. “So if we want to find life elsewhere in the universe, this is where we should start to look.”