The planets' discovery is significant because of their proximity -- 235 trillion miles is a hop, skip, and a jump away in StarSpeak™ -- and the fact that their orbital orientation around Trappist-1 conveniently allows us to study them closely with NASA's orbital telescopes like the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble. While all of the planets are closer to Trappist-1 than Mercury is to our sun, the dwarf star is cool enough that the planets could still retain water. That raises the stakes for astronomers everywhere to find the key to life off-world.
"Answering the question 'are we alone' is a top science priority," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."