Friday, 22 September, 2017

Neighboring Earth Size Exoplanets Trappist 1 May Hold Water

Hubble delivers first hints of possible water content of TRAPPIST-1 planets Hubble provides first hints of water on nearby TRAPPIST-1 planets
Garry Little | 02 September, 2017, 00:46

Astronomer Vincent Bourrier of the Observatoire de l'Université de Genève led an global team that included scientists from NASA and MIT to attempt to determine if there's water 40 light-years away on the seven Earth-sized planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a system which claims the biggest number of Earth-sized planets we've found to date. Now, an worldwide team of scientists believes those planets may harbor a considerable amount of water. Now in a recent breakthrough, a team of scientists has discovered the possible presence of water in three habitable planets of the star system.

As lower-energy ultraviolet radiation warms a planet, it breaks up water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Late-stage outgassing could also have contributed significant amounts of water for the outer, more massive planets after they entered the habitable zone.

"Ultraviolet radiation is an important factor in the atmospheric evolution of planets", Vincent Bourrier, one of the scientists who made this discovery, said in a statement. UV radiation is therefore useful in modelling water loss and atmospheric stability in distant planets.

However, a definitive answer on the TRAPPIST-1 water question will await the arrival of better telescopes.

If you were to hop on a ship traveling at the speed of light and head out into the galaxy for 40 years, you might come across a cool, red star circled by seven worlds. They also looked for any hydrogen "escaping" from the atmospheres, since that detection would be an indication of water vapor. After an extensive analysis, researchers now have concluded that the two innermost planets of the star system are more likely to as dry as a fillet, but the remaining five, three out of which are orbiting in the habitable zone of the star system, potentially hold large water bodies on their surface.

Hubble can then gauge the amount of hydrogen these planets are spilling out into space, and then together with the data on the UV light hitting the atmospheres, get an idea of how much water the planets have lost over their history.

"It is very likely that the planets formed much farther away from the star [than they are now] and migrated inwards during the first 10 million years of the system", Gillon told Space.com in an email.

The team wrote in their paper that observing the TRAPPIST-1 planets over a broad wavelength range from the ultraviolet to the infrared would provide insights into the current state and the dominant physical processes shaping these planets' atmospheres.

The inner planets could have lost more than 20 Earth-oceans-worth of water during the last eight billion years.

"Our results suggest that the outer planets are the best candidates to search for water with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope", says Bourrier.

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