Trappist-1 Explained: A New Solar System (+ Vital Facts)

Trappist-1: Fascinating Facts

This is about TRAPPIST-1. Attributes of these planets show the promise of water or even life. So if you want to learn all about TRAPPIST-1, then you’re in the right place. Let’s get started! TRAPPIST-1 Explained Simply put, seven Earth-like planets were discovered orbiting a nearby star. Incredible, right?  But, what about everyone’s major questions?  How far away is TRAPPIST-1?  Could there be water or even life in the new solar system?  Without further ado, here’s the TRAPPIST-1 explained: The Basics of TRAPPIST-1 Located in the constellation Aquarius lies a rather dim star, known simply as TRAPPIST-1.  The astronomy community ignited with the discovery of seven planets orbiting the star.  Furthermore, the size, distance, and other attributes of these planets show the promise of water or even life. In fact, at least three falls within the so-called habitable zone.  In other words, the appropriate distance from a star for water, and hopefully life to exist.  Also, based on distance from their star, planets are named: TRAPPIST-1 b  TRAPPIST-1 c TRAPPIST-1 d TRAPPIST-1 e TRAPPIST-1 f TRAPPIST-1 g TRAPPIST-1 h When searching for planets beyond our solar system, astronomers use one particular method.  Simply put, as planets orbit between their star and Earth, the star’s light briefly dims.  And, we use such light dips to observe the size, composition, and more. In fact, discoverer Michaël Gillon and colleagues utilized the trusty method. You can read the observations, originally published in the journal Nature. Finally, TRAPPIST-1 weighs in at only 8% of our Sun’s mass. So, not to mention, much cooler, dimmer, and redder, it produces dramatically less radiation. Is Their Liquid Water on TRAPPIST-1? First and foremost, mankind wants to know, “does TRAPPIST-1 host liquid water?”  In fact, we want to know if liquid water exists at all beyond planet Earth.  After all, after centuries of searching, we currently hold zero evidence. Indeed, TRAPPIST-1 hosts multiple planets in its habitable zone. And, within this zone, life’s primary ingredient can possibly exist.  However, several previously discovered planets also fall within this habitable zone. Yet, most are likely incredibly hostile environments, wildly unfit for water, let alone life.  After all, Venus technically falls within our Sun’s habitable zone. In case you need a reminder, Astronimate imagines living on Venus in this article.  So, could water exist on TRAPPIST-1? In short, we won’t know until further observation.  First of all, we must learn more about the planet’s conditions, surface temperatures, and more.  However, such learning falls well within our reach.  In fact, James Webb Space Telescope, launched in late 2018, may be the answer. Check out 10 James Webb Space Telescope facts for more information. The Distance to TRAPPIST-1 At last, here is where my realist personality arrives.  Much like possibilities of life, humans want to know, “how far away is TRAPPIST-1?”  After all, news and media outlets always include distance with exciting new finds.  Unfortunately, they are also ill-equipped to explain what such distances mean.  Furthermore, they can’t accurately explain cosmic distances in relation to mankind and our current abilities. Therefore, I will! Yes, TRAPPIST-1 is a “short” 40 light-years from Earth. However, in our vast universe’s scale, 40 light-years are truly nothing.  In fact, 40 light-years would be a mere millimeter to our universe. However, let’s break this down in human terms. One light-year is how far light, unobstructed, can travel in one Earth year. Furthermore, one light-year equals around 5.8 trillion miles. Now, let’s consider mankind’s fastest spacecraft to date, New Horizons, which travels at 36,000 mph. Indeed, that’s fast! Therefore, if we left today, traveling at our current 36,000 mph limit, we would reach TRAPPIST-1 in just under 746,000 years. In other words, in-person visitation is nowhere in our near future. But, hands-on observation does not currently fit our TRAPPIST-1 to-do list.  So, I simply like to mathematically point out what news agencies do not. The Conditions of TRAPPIST-1 Finally, we want to know what life would be like in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. Surprisingly, all planets circling TRAPPIST-1 have orbits closer than Mercury to our own star.  However, TRAPPIST-1 is not all that much larger than the solar system king, Jupiter.  Plus, at 8% of the Sun’s mass, it only shines 0.05% as brightly.  Furthermore, most light from the star is in the form of infrared wavelengths, invisible to human eyes.  However, extremely cool red dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1 live unimaginably long lives.  In fact, it’s believed that TRAPPIST-1 may burn for another 5 trillion years. In other words, a thousand times longer than our Sun. Initially, habitable-zone planets of TRAPPIST-1 seem too close, in danger of radiation blasts.  After all, inner-most TRAPPIST-1b orbits the star in 1.5 Earth days. In other words, a year on TRAPPIST-1b is 36 hours.  Plus, inner planets lie only fractions of the Earth-Sun distance from their star. So actually, like our Moon, inner planets may also be totally locked with TRAPPIST-1, meaning the same side always faces the star. However, depending on atmospheres and magnetic fields, planets this close may be able to withstand the star’s power. Not to mention, the longer lifespan of such stars and solar systems allows a much greater time for life to evolve on some planets. Could there be life on TRAPPIST-1? Next, we want to know, “could the TRAPPIST-1 solar system have life?” Unfortunately, planets TRAPPIST-1b through d are likely too warm to harbor liquid water.  As a result, human life is currently unlikely, as water is life’s key ingredient.  After all, while TRAPPIST-1 is far cooler, inner-most planets orbit at sub-Mercury distances, still much too hot. Next, TRAPPIST-1e falls in a zone in which liquid water and life could exist.  Most importantly, the planet would require the right atmosphere to help balance the star’s heat.  Especially since the planet still only orbits the star at 10 times the Moon-Earth distance. In other words, still super close! Not to mention, 1e is around 90% of Earth’s size and over half our mass. Then, we consider TRAPPIST-1f, still within the habitable zone. Weighing in at 60% Earth’s mass and 104% our size, planet …

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What Is the Hottest Planet in Our Universe?

KELT-9b: Hottest Planet in Our Universe?

This is about the hottest planet in our universe: KELT-9b. The hottest planet in our solar system is Venus. So if you want to know more about the hottest planet in our universe is, you’re in the right place. Let’s get right into it! Hottest Planet in Our Universe Since confirming our first official exoplanet discovery in the early 1990s, we have spotted all shapes, sizes, speeds, and more.  However, a new champion for the hottest known planet was crowned in 2017, KELT-9b. Hottest of Hot Jupiters In our exoplanet search, it’s not uncommon to find Hot Jupiters, gas giant of Jupiter’s size and mass with a close, almost Mercury-like orbit around its star.  Often earning the alternate nickname, roasters, these planets clearly experience wildly hot temperatures.  Yet, the discovered KELT-9b has officially blown the competition away, experiencing daytime temperatures of 7,800º Fahrenheit.  In other words, KELT-9b is hotter than most stars. No, that’s not a typo. Announced at the 230th meeting of the American Astronomical Society by B. Scott Gaudi (Ohio State) and Karen Collins (Vanderbilt University), KELT-9b was discovered during the KELT survey (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope).  KELT surveys the sky for abnormally bright and large stars, typically left unexplored by other exoplanet missions, like NASA’s Kepler. At three times Jupiter’s mass and twice its size, even KELT’s small telescopes could spot KELT-9b orbiting its parent star. All in the Parent Star KELT-9b owes its record-setting temperatures mostly to its Sun, KELT-9.  The large A-type blue giant star is around 2.5 times our Sun’s mass.  However, KELT-9 produces staggering temperatures, blasting out lethal ultraviolet radiation. The scorching radiation is causing the planet to simply evaporate as it orbits the star.  In fact, it may be losing 100 billion to 100 trillion grams of atmosphere per second, according to Gaudi. The evaporating material likely gives KELT-9b a comet-style tail. Plus, the KELT-9 parent star rotates so rapidly that it takes on an egg-like shape (depicted in article feature image).  Actually, this same effect can be seen in our own solar system’s Saturn. Weird Behaviors of KELT-9b A planet slowly evaporating is strange enough. However, it is only one of many other odd things about KELT-9b. KELT-9b is tidally locked with its Sun, meaning the same side constantly faces the star.  Our Moon is tidally locked with Earth, causing its so-called permanently “dark side.”  As a result, this side experiences the sweltering 7,800º temperatures.  Not to mention, molecules and potential for life are simply unable to be produced on this side. Alternatively, the “dark side” of KELT-9b lies in eternal darkness. But, with the planet’s minuscule atmosphere, heat is likely not easily transferred from the daytime side.  As a result, the planet’s dark side is drastically “cooler.” However, under such radiation, the planet’s sheer surface temperature ensures truly hot conditions, regardless of side. Existing so close to its Sun, like Mercury, KELT-9b orbits rapidly in only 1.5 days! Not all that uncommon, right? But, unlike most planets, KELT orbits perpendicular to its star’s axis of rotation.  In other words, the planet orbits over and under the star’s north and south poles. That is rather uncommon. Unlivable, but Worth It Indeed, this planet is completely unsuitable for human life as we know it. But, studying the mysterious planet is well worth our efforts. According to Gaudi, Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars are both desirable and relatively easy targets.  Yet, worlds like this help us learn how planetary systems form around hotter, brighter, more massive stars.  While living on KELT-9b may be out of the question, it may provide one more puzzle piece for understanding our fascinating universe.

Proxima Centauri B: Earth-Like Planet in Our Cosmic Backyard.

Proxima Centauri B: Earth-Like Planet in Our Cosmic Backyard

This is about the exoplanet Proxima Centauri B. There might be life on Proxima Centauri B. So if you want to know more about Proxima Centauri B, this is the article for you. Let’s get started! Exoplanet Centauri B Proxima Centauri B looks to be the leading candidate for a cosmic home. In recent years, the search for exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system) has been productive and exciting.  Since its official start in 1988, we have discovered over 3,500 confirmed exoplanets. More specifically, the search is for Earth-like planets.  Most importantly, we seek planets orbiting within a particular distance from their star, known as the habitable zone. It is in this specific zone that a planet can support the presence of liquid water.  Where this is liquid water, there is oxygen, and where there is oxygen, there is, or could be, life. How Far Away Is Proxima Centauri B? The exciting new exoplanet was confirmed orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, which is 4.42 light-years away.  In cosmic terms, this is right in our backyard. Truly, this is the closest star to our solar system. Now, in human terms, this is nearly 25 trillion miles away, which poses obvious problems. Unfortunately, even traveling at 150,000 miles per hour would take us nearly 18,000 years to reach the neighboring star. But, as technology advances over upcoming decades, experts hope this time diminishes greatly. As it has always been, the goal is to find ways to increase our travel speeds and methods.  Since light speed is the universe’s official speed limit, the goal is to travel as close to this velocity as possible.  If we could travel at light speeds someday, journeying to Proxima Centauri B would be a short 4-year voyage. Could There Be Life on Proxima Centauri B? Confirming that a planet orbits in the habitable zone are only one step to determining whether it can harbor life.  For instance, Venus is just inside our habitable zone and is one of the most lethal places in our entire solar system.  Like many planets, Venus likely lost its atmosphere in its young life due to the harsh bombarding materials from the Sun. Two primary features are key for a planet’s habitability: atmosphere and magnetic field. Both items shield a planet from deadly incoming materials of stars and the rest of the universe.  Without these protectors, even planets in the habitable zone, like Proxima Centauri B, can be barren, freezing wastelands. Proxima Centauri B Characteristics Part of searching for a human-friendly planet is mass.  As we see in large planets like Jupiter, too much mass creates environments entirely unsuitable for human life.  Fortunately, Proxima Centauri B is thought to be around 1.3 times Earth’s size, which is a completely acceptable (and exciting) size for a planet. Plus, if Proxima Centauri B does still have its atmosphere, its temperatures may be as high as 86º F on the sunny side and as low as -22º on the shaded side. These are absolutely manageable temperatures for human lifeforms. What Comes Next For Proxima Centauri B? Similar to most astronomical findings, the next step is research, research, and more research.  Instead of jetting off to visit the newly found planet, astronomers will likely push telescopes to their limits to further investigate the world. Regardless, this discovery marks a turning point in science. This is a shot of hope and confidence that Earth-like planets orbiting similar stars in habitable zones are not out-of-the-question. Furthermore, finding a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth after years of observations tells us that we are likely to find these planets in many places if we continue searching. Thus, this kind of boost will only continue to heat up the search for habitable exoplanets.