Listen: Astronomer Eric Jensen on NASA's Discovery of 7 Earth-Like Planets

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NASA scientists recently announced the discovery of seven new planets roughly the size of Earth circling a dwarf star. The first known system of this size, the Trappist-1 system, thrilled scientists for many reasons — most notably that some of the planets could be warm enough for water, which could sustain life.

Following this announcement, Professor of Astronomy Eric Jensen joined WHYY’s Radio Times to discuss the implications of this news from 235 trillion miles away — “right around the block of our galactic neighborhood,” he says.

While scientists have known about planets beyond our solar system for more than 20 years, Jensen says, it’s “a huge deal” to find seven of them all in the same place, so closely packed to the star.

“That says something to me about how common planet formation must be,” he says. “The universe seems to be just littered with planets.”

Jensen, who joined Swarthmore’s faculty in 1998, is director of the Frank Aydelotte Foundation for the Advancement of the Liberal Arts. His research interest, broadly speaking, is astrobiology, which is the study of the origin and distribution of life in the cosmos.  In July, Jensen discussed the Juno spacecraft and its rendezvous with Jupiter.