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Seven Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Including Three Potentially Habitable, Identified Around TRAPPIST-1

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-02-22 22:17:15
Science

Astronomers have observed enough planetary transits to confirm the existence of seven "Earth-sized" exoplanets [eso.org] orbiting TRAPPIST-1 [wikipedia.org], an ultra-cool (~2550 K) red dwarf star about 39.5 light years away. Three of the exoplanets are located inside the "habitable zone" of their parent star. These three orbit from 0.028 to 0.045 AU away from the star:

Astronomers using the TRAPPIST–South [eso.org] telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory, the Very Large Telescope [eso.org] (VLT) at Paranal and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope [nasa.gov], as well as other telescopes around the world, have now confirmed the existence of at least seven small planets orbiting the cool red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 [wikipedia.org]. All the planets, labelled TRAPPIST-1b, c, d, e, f, g and h in order of increasing distance from their parent star, have sizes similar to Earth.

The exoplanets are presumed to be tidally locked [nasa.gov]. The six closest to TRAPPIST-1 have been determined to be rocky, while the seventh, TRAPPIST-1h, requires additional observations to determine its characteristics due to its longer orbital period.

Mass estimates for the planets range from 0.41 Earth masses (M) to 1.38 M. Radii range from 0.76 Earth radii (R) to 1.13 R.

Spitzer, Hubble, and other telescopes will continue to make observations of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, but the best data will likely come from the James Webb Space Telescope [wikipedia.org] (JWST), which is scheduled to launch in late 2018. JWST will allow the atmospheres and temperatures of many exoplanets to be characterized, which will help to settle whether the "habitable zones" of red dwarf stars are actually hospitable [soylentnews.org].

Artist illustrations and data for the TRAPPIST-1 system compared to Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Earth [wikipedia.org].

Here's a website dedicated to the star [trappist.one].

Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 [nature.com] (DOI: 10.1038/nature21360) (DX [doi.org])


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