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It's Raining Exoplanets: James Webb Space Telescope Trappist-1 Solar System Potentials

It's Raining Exoplanets: James Webb Space Telescope Trappist-1 Solar System Potentials

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 15 August 2019



This artist's concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets' diameters, masses and distances from the host star, in order from "b" closest to the star, to, "h," being the furthest distance from Trappist-1, as of February 2018. Image credit to NASA/JPL-Caltech. Full Size.


It's Raining Exoplanets: Trappist-1 Solar System

James Webb Space Telescope could begin learning about TRAPPIST-1 atmospheres in a year,
University of Washington, August 13, 2019.


Limits of Sensitivity

Using..."the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 planetary system as a kind of laboratory to model not the planets themselves, but how the coming James Webb Space Telescope might detect and study their atmospheres."

7 Rocks
"The TRAPPIST-1 system, 39 light-years — or about 235 trillion miles — away in the constellation of Aquarius, interests astronomers because of its seven orbiting rocky, or Earth-like, planets."

Star Chart
Aquarius @ 23.5h, 0 to -20 degrees

3 in the Sweet Spot, Now
"Three of these worlds are in the star’s habitable zone — that swath of space around a star that is just right to allow liquid water on the surface of a rocky planet, thus giving life a chance."

Hard Past
"The star, TRAPPIST-1, was much hotter when it formed than it is now, which would have subjected all seven planets to ocean, ice and atmospheric loss in the past."

In other words, Trappist-1 is very much older, smaller, and cooler than our Sun, having a very different location along the evolutionary path of stars than ours.

Wiki: Sun Vs Trappist-1.

“We used computer modeling to determine the most efficient way to use the telescope to answer the most basic question we’ll want to ask, which is: Are there even atmospheres on these planets, or not?”

Detecting Exoplanets
"...exoplanets (are detected) when they pass in front of or “transit” their host star, resulting in a measurable dimming of starlight."

Ten Passes for Cloudless Exoplanets
"...the team’s modeling indicates that the James Webb telescope, using a versatile onboard tool called the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, could detect the atmospheres of all seven TRAPPIST-1 planets in 10 or fewer transits — if they have cloud-free atmospheres. And of course we don’t know whether or not they have clouds."

Thirty for Cloudy Exoplanets
"If the TRAPPIST-1 planets have thick, globally enshrouding clouds like Venus does, detecting atmospheres might take up to 30 transits."

New Views
"...we have looked at: What are the best-case scenarios for the James Webb Space Telescope? What is it going to be capable of doing? Because there are definitely going to be more Earth-sized planets found before it launches in 2021.”


The Telescope and Trappist-1

James Webb Space Telescope,
NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center.


Largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets
NASA, Exoplanet Exploration.

Check out the killer 360 Degree VR View from the surface of the third planet of Trappist-1 Star.


The Star

A very old, cool, tiny red dwarf.


Bottom Line

We need to, (and we will), find a mix of rock and gas giant planets orbiting a younger, hotter, and larger star much like our own, at a similar point along the main sequence (Wiki) to our own position.

Nonetheless, everything we learn about exoplanets and their stars at any point along the main sequence adds to our understanding of our position. It would not surprise me if certain classes of stars had a couple of periods of long, stable behavior potentially conducive to building and sustaining life, one being during its life along the main sequence, and another being after transitioning into a long, stable dwarf phase.

The Universe: Seeing our Future in Deep Space: Cool Red Giant

Future History of Our Sun,
Universe Today, December 22, 2015.


Star Chart
Aquarius @ 23.5h, 0 to -20 degrees



Recent Trappist-1 Exoplanet News

August 2019
How Many of the Universe's Exo-Planets are in the Liquid Water Sweet Spot?


Water on TRAPPIST-1?, discovery of, & indications of water


Closer View of TRAPPIST-1 does not Eliminate Life


Water on TRAPPIST-1?




Astro-Physics Observations, Summer & Fall of 2019

News of Man & Nature, August 2019








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