The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

April 27, 2018 by  
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Recent research suggests that some of the Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 could carry more water than our own planet. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool red dwarf discovered in 1999, and its planets were first documented within the past few years. Scientists have measured the density of TRAPPIST-1’s planets and concluded that the mass of some of these planets may be composed of five percent water – roughly 250 times the amount of water found in our planet’s oceans. Stars such as TRAPPIST-1 are of particular interest to astronomers because their size and faintness allows for more in-depth study of orbiting planets. Through the European Union-funded SPECULOOS project, scientists have been able to focus on these planets as they search for life beyond Earth . Researchers have also observed differences based on the planets’ distance from their sun. For example, planets closest to TRAPPIST-1 may contain thick, steamy atmospheres while outer planets may be covered in ice. Perhaps most importantly, astronomers have concluded that the lack of a hydrogen -rich atmosphere on three planets indicates that they are not gaseous and therefore much more likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. Related: Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable The intensive study of the TRAPPIST-1 system is only in its early stages. In 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency will launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be capable of detecting possible molecules of biological origin. “In the temperate – and potentially habitable – Earth-size regime, SPECULOOS’s detection potential should be significantly better,” Dr. Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège, Belgium told Science Magazine . “The next years are going to be very exciting!” Gillon plans on expanding the observation of Earth-like planets by searching through 1,000 stars similar to TRAPPIST-1. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1)

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The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable

January 24, 2018 by  
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Scientists have concluded that two planets orbiting the dim dwarf star known as Trappist-1 are highly likely to be habitable by humans due to the potential presence of water and sufficient heat. Trappist-1 and its seven orbiting planets were discovered last year, elating scientists who had never encountered a solar system with so many Earth-size planets in a habitable zone of space. This new revelation indicates there may be more Earth-like planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy than once thought. To determine the habitability of the Trappist-1 planets, Dr. Amy Barr of the Planetary Science Institute and colleagues in Hungary constructed mathematical models of each planet, including its interior. From these models, the team found that six of the seven planets are likely to have water, solid or liquid, while one may even host a global ocean . In an innovative move, the team also used models of each planet’s orbit to extrapolate their surface temperatures. “The planets are also on eccentric orbits – kind of egg-shaped – so every time the planet goes around the star it gets stretched and squeezed,” Barr told the Guardian . This effect is known as tidal heating and increases the likelihood of habitability by warming the planet and facilitating a more dynamic flow and chemistry within the planet’s mantle. Related: New periodic table sorts 3,700 known exoplanets into 18 categories In a paper to be published in  the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics , the team concluded that planets d and e are the two most likely to be habitable by humans. Planet d is estimated to have an average surface temperature of 15C (59F), though it may be as low as just above the freezing point for water. In contrast, planet e is thought to have temperatures that parallel those of Antarctica . Ultimately, more research needs to be done to determine the precise conditions of these planets, including whether they are able to hold water or if they possess an atmosphere. A successful launch of NASA ‘s next-generation telescope, the James Webb, will likely shed more light on these fascinating exoplanets. In the meantime, computer models offer glimpses into worlds that may harbor extraterrestrial life. Via the Guardian Images via NASA   (1)

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Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable

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