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  1. #1
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    System of seven Earth-like planets could support life





    Seven Earth-sized terrestrial planets have been discovered orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star. They’re the most promising target yet in the search for life outside our solar system. 40 light years away, the planets are—like Earth—terrestrial rocky worlds that could support life under the right atmospheric conditions. “The seven planets are temperate. This means that they could have some liquid water and maybe, by extension, life on the surface,” said lead author Michaël Gillon.

    When planets pass in front of a small star, in this case TRAPPIST-1, they cast a shadow that allows scientists to make them out and determine their size and orbit. A handful of these “transits” allowed the researchers to identify three initial planets in the system from a ground telescope last year. After conducting further observations, including 20 days of continuous observation from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, they have now witnessed 34 clear transits and attributed them to seven different planets.


    The next step in the search for life on these planets is to determine the composition of their atmospheres. The planets are likely tidally locked, meaning one side always faces the star, and the other is always dark. An atmosphere would mitigate extreme temperatures on both sides and preserve habitability.

    Some atmospheric compositions would themselves be signs of life, such as methane, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the right relative concentrations. “There is one combination of molecules, with some relative abundances, that would tell us there is life with 99 percent confidence,” said Gillon. “Oxygen itself is not enough.”

    The researchers will soon know much more about the planets’ atmospheres and any potential signs of life. “With current facilities (the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes), we can obtain the very first insights into the atmospheres of these planets, find out if they have a large and clear atmosphere, and possibly detect molecules such as water and methane,” co-author Julien de Witt told us. “Once the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, we will be able to go one step further in our research. Assuming the planets have an atmosphere, JWST will provide us with more detailed information about their composition, temperature, and pressure. This will help us assess their habitability within five to ten years.”


    Imagine standing on the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. This artist's concept is one interpretation of what it could look like. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The researchers already know a bit about conditions on the surface of the planets based on their proximity to the star. The sides of the planets facing the star are dimly lit, like a sunset on Earth, and feel warm from infrared energy. “The spectacle would be beautiful, because every now and then, you would see another planet about twice as big as the moon in the sky,” said co-author Amaury Triaud.

    Prior to this discovery, the only terrestrial planets known to be well-suited to life were those in our solar system. “Now we have seven more we can study in detail. And not in a few decades—we are doing this now,” said Gillon. “This story is just beginning.”

    Featured image: This artist's conception shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about their diameters, masses and distances from the host star. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    https://www.researchgate.net/blog/po...d-support-life

  2. #2
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    Seven Earth-Like Planets Orbit One Nearby Star

    The most promising place to search for life outside our solar system just got even more enticing.

    Last year, a research team operating the ESO's Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, or TRAPPIST, discovered that a small, dim red dwarf star about 39 light-years away had three planets orbiting it. All three exoplanets were about the size of Earth and in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone" where temperatures can hover between 0 and 100 degrees C—the ideal conditions for liquid water and, perhaps, life.

    The team, lead by Michaël Gillon of the STAR Institute at the University of Liège in Belgium, eagerly turned more telescopes toward TRAPPIST-1, including NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the ESO's Very Large Telescope. Now, a paper published today in Nature reveals that TRAPPIST-1 has not three but seven Earth-sized planets, six of which are likely rocky, and all seven could possibly support liquid water.


    "All of these planets are the best targets found so far to search for signs of life in the next decade, and it is remarkable that they are all transiting the same star," co-author and MIT planetary scientist Julien de Wit told Popular Mechanics in an email. "This means that the system will allow us to study each planet in great depth, providing for the first time a rich perspective on a different planetary system than ours."

    A SOLAR SYSTEM THAT LOOKS LIKE JUPITER

    TRAPPIST-1 is technically an ultracool dwarf star. This dim little star has only 8 percent of the mass of the sun, and temperatures are estimated around 2,550 Kelvin compared to 3,800 Kelvin for other red dwarfs and a scorching 5,800 Kelvin for our sun. In fact, TRAPPIST-1 is only slightly bigger than Jupiter.

    Fortunately, the seven planets around TRAPPIST-1 orbit much closer to their host star than we do. The star's inner planets have orbits that resemble Jupiter's Galilean moons. All seven orbit much closer to TRAPPIST-1 than even Mercury orbits the sun, allowing them to receive about the same amount of energy and heat as the Earth.

    The planets also pass very close to each other as they orbit. According to NASA: "If a person was standing on one of the planet's surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky."

    The measured orbital periods of the planets, compared with those of Jupiter's Galilean moons and the four inner planets of the Solar System. The sizes of all the objects are approximately to scale.

    Some of the planets are more optimally positioned to support liquid water than others. The star has been dubbed TRAPPIST-1A, and the planets, from innermost to outermost, are 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f, 1g, and 1h. TRAPPIST-1b, 1c, and 1d are probably too close and too hot for water. TRAPPIST-1h is probably too far away and too cold. But TRAPPIST-1e, 1f, and 1g are right in the middle of that Goldilocks Zone. For all we know they are veritable paradise worlds with rolling oceans and sprawling forests. (Okay, probably not, but it's not impossible.)

    That said, we know very little about these planets, almost nothing beyond estimates for their size, distance from the host star, and orbital periods. We can detect exoplanets when they transit their host stars, meaning they move in front of the star from our perspective and block some of the light that reaches our telescopes. From the resulting dip in the star's brightness, we can deduce the presence of planets and even their size.

    Red dwarfs, such as TRAPPIST-1, make for great stars to search because they are already dim, making any change in brightness easier to detect. Planets orbiting dwarf stars generally have short orbital periods, making an entire trip around in weeks or even days, so there is plenty of opportunity to catch them moving across the face of the star. (The TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit their star in anywhere from 1.5 to about 20 days).

    Red dwarfs are also the most common and longest-living stars in the galaxy. An estimated 85 percent of the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way are red dwarfs. TRAPPIST-1 will continue slowly burning hydrogen for another 10 trillion years, 700 times longer than the entire history of the universe—plenty of time for life to take root and evolve.

    These worlds, as exciting as they are, have a few properties that call their potential habitability into question. For one thing, the planets are likely tidally locked with TRAPPIST-1, meaning the same face of the planet is always facing the star, just like one half of the moon always faces the Earth. If this is the case, one side of each planets experiences perpetual daylight while the opposite side is stuck in an endless night.

    Another concern is that red dwarfs can be particularly active stars with stellar eruptions, flares, and coronal mass ejections bombarding the nearby planets with radiation. A recent study casts doubt on the habitability of the closest exoplanet to Earth, Proxima b, for this reason. That said, TRAPPIST-1 is a cooler star than Proxima Centauri, and it might not rain down high-energy particles on its planets so relentlessly.

    "To the best of our knowledge, TRAPPIST-1 appears particularly quiet," says de Wit.

    It may be that TRAPPIST-1 is a gentle, life-giving star after all. But it's almost 40 light-years away, particularly small and exceedingly dim. How do we find out for sure?
    Seven Earth-Like Planets Orbit One Nearby Star

  3. #3
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    Here are some details from NASA's conference:

    1) Spitzer detects 7 earth size planets around the TRAPPIST-1 Star System

    2) 40 light years away

    3) 3 planets are in the right zone for liquid water

    4) Have measured the masses and radi of earth-size planets

    5) Can look at atmosphere and bio-signatures

    6) Planets are close to each other, you would see them similarly as you would see Earth’s moon.

    7) Planets are so close, they interact gravitationally on each other.

    8) Trappist-1e is very close in size to earth. It receives a similar amount of light as Earth does.

    9) Trappist-1f (MIGHT) be water-rich and similar in size as earth (NASA just said currently no detection of water). Receives about as much light as Mars.

    10)Trappist-1g is largest in the system, 13% larger radius than Earth. Receives about as much light as Mars and the Asteroid belt.

  4. #4
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    Sounds inviting [not].

    Ya signed up for the first colonizing tour, Slick?


  5. #5
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    ^ I would hell yeah where do I sign up?


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme View Post
    Sounds inviting [not].

    Ya signed up for the first colonizing tour, Slick?

    Look at my avatar....

  7. #7
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    Mods I didnt see the "space news thread" and this information is already in there.

    Can delete or let die

  8. #8
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    They need to give them proper names. It would be good to have all the names related to each other.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auroria View Post
    They need to give them proper names. It would be good to have all the names related to each other.
    Antony, Bernard, Benedict, Thomas, Pachomius, De Rance, and Mathew.

    A pie for why.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Auroria View Post
    They need to give them proper names. It would be good to have all the names related to each other.
    Antony, Bernard, Benedict, Thomas, Pachomius, De Rance, and Mathew.

    A pie for why.
    Trappist Monks ... no need for the Pie, thanks.

    ---

    Auroria ... proper names? ... I'll go with the 'C' Cup... just the right size.
    Not to heavy, not to light ... just right.

    Orbit of 2 1/2 days ... that's about 3 times a week the same as my ...

    “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”

    .

  11. #11
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    Did some reading yesterday about this discovery. What I found to be extremely cool is how close together these planets are. They are close enough that, if you were standing on the surface of one of them, you could see one or maybe two of the other planets in the night sky in the same way we see our moon. You could see Geography, colors, the whole planet(s). Our universe is a pretty amazing place.

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