A better weather report for the seven worlds of the Trappist system

The red dwarf Trappist-1 is orbited by seven rocky planets. For a long time, this large number of planets has made it seem likely that at least one of them might be habitable. Now, in an article in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers have reported on their results from calculations using previously known data to produce more precise atmospheric models for the seven worlds.

The results have somewhat deflated the hopes of finding planets like Earth in this system. Trappist-1 apparently experienced a very hot youth. This means that all seven worlds probably have a history comparable to that of Venus. Water that might have once existed on these worlds would have evaporated long ago and the planets would now be enveloped by dense, hot atmospheres. There is still some hope for Trappist-1 e, which is located right in the middle of the habitable zone and which the scientists’ model suggests might also be similar to Earth.

In particular, the scientists determined:

  • Trappist-1 b, the planet closest to the star, is so hot that not even clouds of sulfuric acid, like on Venus, could form in its atmosphere.
  • Trappist-1 c and d receive somewhat more energy from their star than Venus and Earth do from the Sun and might be similar to Venus with a dense, hostile atmosphere.
  • Among all seven planets, Trappist-1 e has the greatest likelihood for liquid water on its surface. However, it might have also undergone a formation like that of Venus.
  • Trappist-1 f, g, and h, the outer planets, might either be similar to Venus or might be frozen ice worlds, depending on how much water they lost during their formation.
The seven worlds of the Trappist-1-system (Illustration: NASA/R. Hurt/T. Pyle)
The Trappist-1-System (Picture: ESO/N. Bartmann/spaceengine.org)

4 Responses to “ A better weather report for the seven worlds of the Trappist system ”

  1. I’m still gobsmacked that so much can be learned about exoplanets

  2. Charlie Martin

    I’ve started with your first novel and fell in love with the entire series! The way you’ve included factual information on outter space I’d what drew me into each one of the series books! I seriously felt as if I was right there leaning over Martin’s shoulder!I’m looking forward to going on the next adventure to retrieve Demetri’s body and reuniting it with his consciousness! Not to mention having another meeting with the alien!!! Keep up the wonderfully exciting work!! I’m looking forward to the next(and hopefully not the last) installment of this series!!! If love to purchase an autographed copy of this next novel!!!

  3. 7 sisters at Trappist? I’m still gobsmacked that none of the exoplanet papers that I have read discusses the potential influence of planetary moons in the interpretation of the data. Why can’t Trappist be Irish twins and a Dutch triplet.(lagrangian)? Brandon, what how would you imagine a triplet I – not I? Keep up the great work…

    • Well, I think the scientists try to explore the simpler configurations first, Ockham’s razor, you know. Simple in this sense meaning configurations like those we already know. A lagrangian twin would be easily mistaken for two separate orbits … so to prove it’s existence would require direct observation. The future James Webb telescope might help here. But an interesting story idea for a future book 🙂

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