Monday, March 6, 2017

Red Dwarf and the Seven Worlds

This is one excellent sample.  Add in a dozen more and we can make some pretty safe conjectures for what typically is an Earth sized planet.
Of course, if it were to turn out that all planets are hollow (  something i personally do not want to accept ) and populated on the inside surface, this will  be a major center of alien populations as well. 
Even without that possibility, this is a prime target for human exploration.  A colony base sent there can address  multiple acceptable locations and environments to set up which lowers the risk of long term failure. 

Red Dwarf and the Seven Worlds: Astronomers excited by bonanza of Earth-sized planets nearby

About 39 light-years away, there’s a tiny red sun with several planets in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist. Ivan Semeniuk explains how scientists discovered this and what it means

An artist’s interpretation of what the surface of planet TRAPPIST-1f could look like.

Ivan Semeniuk

SCIENCE REPORTER The Globe and Mail Last updated: 

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 1:17PM EST

Astronomers have discovered a nearby solar system with seven planets similar in size to Earth, a remarkably rich cache of new worlds that could bolster prospects for detecting life elsewhere in the universe. 

The planets were found orbiting closely around a small red dwarf star located just over 39 light-years away from our solar system. Based on the amount of energy the star emits, at least three of the planets are located in the star’s so-called habitable zone, meaning that it is possible for water to exist on their surfaces in a liquid state under the right atmospheric conditions. 

An artist’s conception shows what the TRAPPIST-1 solar system might look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the star. 


Preliminary calculations based on the motions of the seven planets suggest they are all “terrestrial, rocky worlds,” said Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist with the University of Liege in Belgium who led the international team that announced the find on Wednesday. The results were published in the journal Nature.
The planets were detected using a combination of ground-based telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which is sensitive to the infrared wavelengths where the tiny star, known as TRAPPIST-1, shines brightest. The planets are too small and distant to observe directly but their number and relative sizes were determined based on the amount of starlight they block as they pass in front of the dim red star.

“Maybe the most exciting thing here is that these seven planets are very well suited for detailed atmospheric study,” said Dr. Gillon during a telephone news briefing. 

While astronomers have detected thousands of planets beyond our own solar system over the past two decades, this find has generated much more excitement than usual for a good reason. Because the planets cross in front of their star, it’s possible that astronomers will be able to use the star’s light as a probe to determine whether any of the planets have atmospheres and, if so, what gasses they contain. 

Some gasses, including oxygen – which is abundant in Earth’s atmosphere because of the presence of plants on land and in the oceans – would be an indicator that life may exist there. 

In an accompanying commentary, astronomer Ignas Snellen of the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands writes that TRAPPIST-1 is so cool it will continue to shine quietly for the next 10 trillion years, long after our own sun has burned itself out and 700 times longer than the current age of the universe, “which is arguably enough time for life to evolve.”

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