TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets Have Too Much Water On Their Surface

Posted: Mar 21 2018, 2:13am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 21 2018, 5:30am CDT, in Latest Science News


This story may contain affiliate links.

TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets have Too Much Water on Their Surface
Credit: NASA/JPL- Caltech

New study says that the huge amount of water on TRAPPIST-1 surface makes it unfavorable to support life

Researchers have found evidence that TRAPPIST-1 likely has too much water on its surface, suggesting that the planetary system may not be as conducive to life as initially thought.

TRAPPIST-1 is a system of seven Earth-size worlds orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf that resides about 40 light-years away from Earth. The system was discovered in early 2017 and was believed to be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments beyond the solar system. Since that time, researchers have been working to better characterize TRAPPIST-1 and collect more information about its exoplanets.

Previous researchers have shown that all seven planets in the system are mostly made of rock and have almost the same size as Earth. Some of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet can maintain liquid water on its surface and can have conditions suitable for supporting life. However, researchers with this new effort have thrown a wet blanket on such speculation by suggesting that the huge amount of water these exoplanets are likely to have makes them unfavorable for life to exist.

"What we are seeing for the first time are Earth-sized planets that have a lot of water or ice on them.” Steven Desch Arizona State University astrophysicist said.

By combining all of the available information about the TRAPPIST-1 system, researchers suggest that its all exoplanets have far more water than Earth, from 50 to 10 percent of their total mass. By comparison, water accounts just 0.2 percent of Earth’s mass. That much water likely means there are no exposed land masses and no geochemical cycles that could promote an atmosphere. Also, a planet with such deep oceans would have extreme mantle pressure that prevents the rock from moving upward and lead to a runaway snowball effect.

"We typically think having liquid water on a planet as a way to start life, since life, as we know it on Earth, is composed mostly of water and requires it to live," explained Natalie Hinkel of Vanderbilt University. "However, a planet that is a water world, or one that doesn't have any surface above the water, does not have the important geochemical or elemental cycles that are absolutely necessary for life."

Maintaining liquid water depends on how much heat a planet receives from its parent star. Planets closest to the star are more likely to have water in the form of a liquid, while those farther away may have water frozen on their surfaces as ice. But the TRAPPIST-1 star is approximately 2,000 times dimmer than our own, which means that the planets most likely to support life reside very close to their star. However, the problem is that all seven planets are likely tidally locked to their star, resulting in one side always being too hot while the other is too cold. Further reducing the chance of being habitable.

This story may contain affiliate links.


Find rare products online! Get the free Tracker App now.

Download the free Tracker app now to get in-stock alerts on Pomsies, Oculus Go, SNES Classic and more.

Latest News


The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




comments powered by Disqus