TRAPPIST-1 Planets May Have More Water Than Earth

Posted: Feb 10 2018, 10:41am CST | by , Updated: Feb 10 2018, 10:44am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
TRAPPIST-1 Planets May Have More Water Than Earth
An artist’s impression of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

New data sheds more light on the properties of one of the most intriguing planetary systems discovered to date

Last year, NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting an ultra cool dwarf star. The discovery thrilled the world as some of those planets reside in the so called habitable zone – a right distance away from the star at which water can exist in liquid form. And liquid water is an ingredient necessary for life on Earth or anywhere else in the universe.

Now, researchers have found that TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may contain more water than we anticipated. All seven exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system are likely to be rocky, with up to 5 percent of their mass in water. By comparison, Earth’s water reservoirs contain only 0.02 percent of the Earth’s mass.

The latest findings are based on the observations and measurements of the system obtained over the course of one year since its discovery. Researchers combined all the available data and refined the properties of this intriguing planetary system.

“After discovering this incredible planetary system our team was extremely eager to know more about TRAPPIST-1. A year on, we are reporting our results. Thanks to our efforts the TRAPPIST-1 planets are becoming the best studied worlds outside the Solar system.” University of Birmingham astronomer Dr Amaury Triaud said in a statement.

Five of the planets in the system appear to have devoid of an atmosphere made of Hydrogen and Helium, like for Neptune or Uranus. Because the host star in TRAPPIST-1 system is very old and dim, the planets around it are relatively cool by planetary standards.

By using data, researchers developed also improved estimates of the masses of planets, which eventually allowed their density to be estimated. Densities could provide important clues about a planet’s composition and can help determine whether it can support life on its surface.

“When we combine our new masses with our improved radii measurements, and our improve knowledge of the star, we obtain precise densities for each of the seven worlds, and reach information on their internal composition. All seven planets remarkably resemble Mercury, Venus, our Earth, its Moon, and Mars.”

Although new data helps paint a clearer picture of the system than ever before, there is still much more to learn about TRAPPIST-1.

Researchers hope that they can test their ideas about TRAPPIST-1 planetary system by using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The upcoming James Webb telescope is the successor of Hubble telescope and it can provide more information regarding the atmosphere surrounding these planets.

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