Go outside tonight and look at bright Jupiter in the south. Now look at just its right side and zip 235 trillion miles (378 trillion km) into the universe. Here between the head of Pisces and the side of Aquarius is a nondescript star called TRAPPIST-1, an extremely cold red dwarf discovered in 1999.
TRAPPIST-1 It was mostly forgotten until 2017, when NASA announced that it hosted the most LandLarge-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star so far. exoplanetHunters have been obsessed with TRAPPIST-1 ever since. At last count, the neighborhood had seven planets, almost identical to the eight planets in our solar system. But is TRAPPIST-1 a mirror or a mirage? Could it contain Earth-like planets – and possibly life – or does its fleeting resemblance to the solar system mask alien planets with extreme conditions?
cue James Webb Space Telescope (Webb or JWST), which extrasolar astronomers hope will reveal the true nature of this unique planetary system. using his ability to The atmosphere of an exoplanetRecently demonstrated in WASP-96b, the JWST is searching each of the seven planets in its first year of operations, and we’re on the cusp of the first results.
Related: The best James Webb Space Telescope images of all time (gallery)
Only 39 light-years from Earth — a close neighbor in cosmic terms — TRAPPIST-1 looks nothing like the Sun. The star is about one-tenth the mass of the Sun and almost as wide Jupiter. However, it is what it is about that gets exoplanet hunters excited. Three planets were discovered in 2016 by a Belgian telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile called TRAPPIST – Small Telescope for Planets and Transiting Planets.
This discovery was further confirmed by the now retired NASA Spitzer Space Telescope In 2017. “The Spitzer Space Telescope played a huge role in uncovering the TRAPPIST-1 system and JWST is the follow-up,” Cornell University exoplanet scientist Nicole K. Lewis told Space.com.
Spitzer spent 1,000 hours staring at TRAPPIST-1 and was able to tell us there are seven planets in the system. Spitzer also measured the mass and radius of each world, allowing basic calculations of planetary densities, all of which are similar to Earth’s. Astronomers have been very worried ever since.
Check their atmosphere
“We know that TRAPPIST-1 planets are made of stuff just like Earth,” Lewis said. “So they may have Earth-like atmospheres.”
Lewis co-captained a team used in 2018 Hubble Space Telescope To clear the planet’s atmosphere. “We haven’t seen any indication of the atmospheres, but we know they don’t have large amounts of thin hydrogen and helium-rich atmospheres that you might expect,” Lewis said. This atmosphere is associated with gas giant like planets Saturn and buyer.
But Hubble has reached its limits. cue jwst. “TRAPPIST has always been on the JWST plan, and because we’ve known about it for six years, we were really able to make sure we were monitoring it to the best of JWST’s capabilities,” Lewis said.
TRAPPIST-1: Solar System 2.0?
The astronomers have spent that time learning as much as possible about TRAPPIST-1’s seven worlds. In 2018, a study indicated that its planets were rocky and that some of them may be wetter than Earth. In 2021, another study claimed that it was likely rocky, although it is less dense than the planets in our solar system.
TRAPPIST-1 will likely not look like the solar system. Although four of the seven planets occupy the star’s habitable zone – close enough to be warm enough to host liquid water – they all orbit around it. star Closer than Mercury Is the sun.
Given that the star is much darker than our Sun, this may not affect temperatures much, but it does greatly affect conditions on the planets. For example, the nearest planet, TRAPPIST-1b, orbits its star in 1.9 Earth days. This is a very short year. In TRAPPIST-1h, the farthest, it takes only 19 days. Moreover, all the planets are likely to be phasically closed, just as the Moon is in relation to Earth, so daylight only reaches one side.
Despite these differences, TRAPPIST-1 remains the top exoplanet target for JWST due to the diversity of rocky planets. And although it is one of the most studied planetary systems, scientists still believe that TRAPPIST-1 has many secrets to uncover.
TRAPPIST-1 in transit
TRAPPIST-1 is the only star system we know of to have seven Earth-like planets, but it’s far from being the nearest planetary system. That honor goes to Proxima Centauri, 4.24 light-years from Earth.
So why the fascination with TRAPPIST-1, which is 10 times farther away? “Proxima does not transit and it passes by the exoplanets that we need,” Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University, told Space.com. Our line of sight of the TRAPPIST-1 system is perfect, and our telescopes can see its seven planets as they cross the star’s disk.
“The closest transiting planets give us the most frequent signals, which is why TRAPPIST-1 is one of our favorite systems,” Kaltenegger said. Astronomers can watch the TRAPPIST-1 planets spin and spin.
JWST first look
Can JWST detect what’s in the atmospheres of these seven rocky exoplanets? web NIRSpec Tool It makes it the only telescope capable of recognizing signatures of molecules such as methane, Carbon Dioxide and oxygen – possible signs of life on the surface and clues to the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. After promising work to decipher the gases in WASP-39b’s atmosphere, last week astronomers finally got a glimpse of JWST’s first look at the TRAPPIST-1 system.
It has not yet been peer-reviewed or published conspiracy At the headquarters of JWST — the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore — on December 13, scientists discussed the telescope’s raw data from its observations of TRAPPIST-1g, the second-farthest planet from the star.
Bjorn Beneke, an astronomer at the University of Montreal in Canada, show up TRAPPIST-1g does not have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. Olivia Lim, Ph.D. A student at the University of Montreal, he also presented a prof attached With similar results to TRAPPIST-1b (part of a survey program of all the TRAPPIST-1 planets) as did Alexander Rathke, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Notes From TRAPPIST-1c.
Therefore, there are no headline-grabbing discoveries about any TRAPPIST-1 planets in JWST’s first observations.
What’s next for JWST?
But don’t be discouraged by the lack of ads in these early results. It’s about polling – understanding how best to use JWST’s precision and its various tools.
“These first observations will get us to the same level that we’re at with Hubble, more or less, but we’ll know how to use the instruments we want to use,” Lewis said. “It will take several observations with the JWST to build up the signals we need, and with the longevity of the JWST we can just keep revisiting and learning more.”
Lewis will study TRAPPIST-1e. “It is the region that is in the middle of the habitable zone and closest to the size of Earth,” she said.
Remember, this research is only about planetary atmospheres. “We don’t start asking about aliens probably for a few turns!” Lewis said.
But exoplanet science is not done in isolation. Lewis is working with the University of Montreal because together their observations of TRAPPIST-1d and TRAPPIST-1f — two other planets in the habitable zone — would make a great comparison sample.
“The presence of Venus, Earth and Mars in our solar system has told us a lot about why Earth is habitable, about global warming and what might happen if Earth were a little smaller,” Lewis said.
The primary receptor for TRAPPIST-1
One of the TRAPPIST-1 planets will go down in history as hosting the first ever discovered atmosphere of an Earth-sized planet outside our solar system. The next few months, years and decades will see the TRAPPIST-1 system gradually revealed in great detail. But in addition to discovering the true nature of its seven Earth-sized planets, expect to see the neighborhood used to conduct some basic exoplanet science.
“We’ll be able to study the real impact of a star on a rocky planet relatively similar to Earth,” Kaltenegger said, “and we’ll be able to see if our concept of a habitable zone actually works in practice.”
All this opportunity comes from the amazing properties of a remarkably close star system. “The planets of TRAPPIST-1 are all about the same size, but they differ from their stars so we can explore them and think about the processes that shape them,” Lewis said. “It’s as if nature gave us this perfect lab experiment.”
Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
#James #Webb #Space #Telescope #meets #intriguing #exoplanets #TRAPPIST1