TRAPPIST-1 System of Earth-Sized Planets Is 'Quite Old'

Alain Brian
Août 13, 2017

When TRAPPIST-1 and its seven planets which is 37 light-years away were discovered, scientists came to the conclusion that it could be at least 500 million years old but the new study found the earlier result wrong.

Much has been said about the "ultra-cool dwarf star" that is hosting the planetary system, but the noise around it had sort of faded - until now. NASA researchers have now found out that the TRAPPIST-1 system is older than the solar system.

However, the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system are of a lower density than Earth, which could mean that they could have a dense atmosphere with a lot of water vapour content, which would act as effective shields against the stellar radiation.

"Our results really help constrain the evolution of the TRAPPIST-1 system, because the system has to have persisted for billions of years", said Adam Burgasser, an astronomer at the University of California, San Diego in the US.

The intriguing ultra-cool dwarf star of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system could be up to twice as old as our own solar system, says a new research.

"If there is life on these planets, I would speculate that it has to be hardy life, because it has to be able to survive some potentially dire scenarios for billions of years", Burgasser added.

"There's many earth size planets orbiting, probably most of the stars in the galaxy", said Burgasser. The regular periodicity of the orbits is what led to the discovery of the planets in the first place, and researchers have even turned the TRAPPIST-1 system into a musical instrument. This could be a benchmark in exploring possibility of life outside earth as the age of its star plays pivotal role in supporting habitability. Three of these planets are located in what NASA calls the "habitable zone", meaning the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have water.

While this may be a promising factor in the search for life, it isn't the only thing that must be considered, the researchers explain.

While it is still possible the lengthy exposure to solar radiation could have burned away the atmospheres and surface liquids on the TRAPPIST-1 planets, the new age estimates suggest the star is rather old. "The chance that there's no life is probably very small at this point".

'But Trappist-1 is like a slow-burning candle that will shine for about 900 times longer than the current age of the universe'.

And, in the future, additional observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope could give further insight.

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