James Webb Discovers Astonishing Features of the Chilliest Rocky Exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 C

by Mateo Gonzalez
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TRAPPIST-1 c

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed startling information about TRAPPIST-1 c, a Venus-sized exoplanet. Even though it receives comparable radiation levels to Venus, it does not possess a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, debunking the theory of it being a Venus duplicate. This chilliest rocky exoplanet ever recorded seems to have been formed with minimal water and possibly has an extremely thin atmosphere or none at all. Future research will aim to understand the variations in the planet’s temperature and its atmospheric conditions.

TRAPPIST-1 c’s infrared measurements suggest it isn’t as similar to Venus as previously assumed.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has effectively gauged the heat emanating from TRAPPIST-1 c, an exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years away from Earth. With a daytime temperature of roughly 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes the coldest rocky planet ever assessed by this method.

The findings may disappoint those who were hoping for the TRAPPIST-1 system to be a direct counterpart to our own solar system. Despite TRAPPIST-1 c being approximately the same size and mass as Venus and receiving a similar amount of radiation, it appears unlikely to have a similar dense carbon dioxide atmosphere. This suggests the planet, and possibly the entire system, may have been formed with very little water. These results contribute to the ongoing research on whether planetary atmospheres can endure the harsh conditions of a red dwarf star.

The accompanying artist’s concept displays a hypothetical depiction of the hot rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c, based on current research. The planet is slightly larger than Earth and orbits its star from a distance of 0.016 AU (around 1.5 million miles) in a mere 2.42 Earth-days. The planet’s rocky composition is suggested by its similar density to Earth. Webb’s measurement of 15-micron mid-infrared light emitted by TRAPPIST-1 c indicates that the planet has a barren rocky surface or a very thin carbon dioxide atmosphere.

James Webb Space Telescope Confirms Absence of Thick Carbon Dioxide Atmosphere on Rocky Exoplanet

An international research team has used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to measure the heat energy emanating from the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c, concluding that if the planet has an atmosphere at all, it is likely extremely thin.

With a daytime temperature of approximately 380 kelvins (about 225 degrees Fahrenheit), TRAPPIST-1 c is now the coolest rocky exoplanet ever characterized based on thermal emission. The precision required for these measurements underscores Webb’s effectiveness in characterizing rocky exoplanets akin to those in our own solar system.

The discovery takes us a step further in determining whether planets orbiting small red dwarfs like TRAPPIST-1 – the most common star type in the galaxy – can maintain atmospheres conducive to supporting life as we know it.

“We want to know if rocky planets have atmospheres or not,” said Sebastian Zieba, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and lead author of the research paper published on June 19 in the journal Nature. “Webb enables us to finally start searching for atmospheres dominated by oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.”

TRAPPIST-1 c is part of seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool red dwarf star (or M dwarf) located 40 light-years from Earth. Despite the similarities in size and mass to our solar system’s rocky planets, it’s uncertain whether these exoplanets possess comparable atmospheres. It’s known that.During a research initiative led by an international team of scientists, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope explored the curious characteristics of exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c, often paralleled with Venus in size and radiative reception. Surprisingly, the findings rule out a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere for this rocky exoplanet, thereby marking it as a distinct entity from Venus. The discovered exoplanet showcases the lowest temperature recorded for a rocky planet, hinting at a possible formation with scarce water content. While the presence of an atmosphere is still debated, ongoing studies will uncover the fluctuating temperatures and potential atmospheric conditions.

The infrared examination of TRAPPIST-1 c through the James Webb telescope suggests that its resemblance to Venus may be lesser than previously thought. The telescope measured the heat radiating from the exoplanet, which is orbiting a red dwarf star approximately 40 light-years away from our planet. It revealed a dayside temperature of roughly 225 degrees Fahrenheit, making TRAPPIST-1 c the coolest rocky planet ever examined using this methodology.

The revelations may disappoint enthusiasts who envisioned the TRAPPIST-1 system as a direct counterpart to our own. TRAPPIST-1 c is similar in size and mass to Venus and receives an equivalent amount of radiation from its star. However, its likely lack of a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere suggests a formation with minimal water. These findings contribute to ongoing investigations into the survival capabilities of planetary atmospheres in the hostile environment of a red dwarf star.

The research team used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to estimate the heat energy emanating from TRAPPIST-1 c. This exoplanet’s dayside temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit now holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded for a rocky exoplanet based on thermal emission. These precise measurements underline Webb’s instrumental role in characterizing rocky exoplanets akin to those in our solar system. This study brings us one step closer to discerning whether planets revolving around red dwarfs – the most abundant type of star in our galaxy – can maintain life-sustaining atmospheres.

An exciting detail of TRAPPIST-1 c is that it’s akin to Venus in size and receives comparable radiation from its host star as Venus does from the Sun. This led researchers to suspect that it could harbor a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere similar to Venus. Yet, the seven rocky planets, including TRAPPIST-1 c, orbiting the ultracool red dwarf star (or M dwarf) 40 light-years away from us are still enigmatic in terms of their atmospheres.

Using the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the Webb telescope, the team observed the TRAPPIST-1 system during four distinct instances when the planet transitioned behind the star, a process called a secondary eclipse. This method facilitated the calculation of the amount of mid-infrared light, with wavelengths of 15 microns, emanating from the dayside of the planet. The same technique was used previously to ascertain that TRAPPIST-1 b, the innermost planet in this system, is likely devoid of any atmosphere.

Although the present measurements don’t conclusively define TRAPPIST-1 c, they do assist in narrowing down the probable scenarios. If the planet had a thick CO2 atmosphere, it would have absorbed all of the 15-micron light, resulting in the planet’s non-detection. The study also establishes that the exoplanet is unlikely to mirror Venus with a dense CO2 atmosphere and sulfuric acid clouds.

The inability to detect a substantial atmosphere suggests that the planet could have formed with limited water. This revelation raises questions about the habitability of the other cooler and more temperate planets in the TRAPPI to get to the next one.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about TRAPPIST-1 c

What is the TRAPPIST-1 system?

The TRAPPIST-1 system is a compact solar system located about 39 light-years away from Earth. It consists of a host star classified as an ultra-cool dwarf, and seven planets orbiting it, all of which could possibly hold water.

How does the TRAPPIST-1 system differ from our solar system?

The TRAPPIST-1 system is much smaller and cooler than our solar system. Its host star is an ultra-cool dwarf, which is far less massive and much cooler than the sun. Moreover, all seven planets in the system are situated very close to their host star, with orbits smaller than that of Mercury in our solar system.

What makes the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system potentially habitable?

Three of the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system lie within the habitable zone, an area around the host star where conditions might be just right to support liquid water on the surface of a planet. However, it’s important to note that many other factors, including the planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field, also play a crucial role in its potential habitability.

What is an ultra-cool dwarf star?

An ultra-cool dwarf is a stellar classification for very low-mass stars or brown dwarfs. These types of stars are considerably cooler than other types of stars, with surface temperatures often less than 2,700 Kelvin. They’re also typically less than 10% the mass of the Sun.

How was the TRAPPIST-1 system discovered?

The TRAPPIST-1 system was discovered by astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. The method of discovery is known as the transit method, where astronomers observe periodic dimming of the star’s light as planets pass in front of it, indicating their existence and providing information about their size and orbit.

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6 comments

GalacticGwen June 25, 2023 - 8:47 pm

Just imagine if life really does exist on one of those 7 planets. we truly wouldnt be alone. mind=blown!

Reply
StarGazerTom June 26, 2023 - 9:14 am

Unbelievable! to think that there could be another world out there just like ours, it’s kinda humbling…

Reply
CosmicCarl June 26, 2023 - 10:33 am

Who needs science fiction when we got stuff like this! Trappist-1, here we come!

Reply
AstroAmy June 26, 2023 - 1:17 pm

So the transit method eh? Thats what we’re using to find planets thousands of light years away, amazin’. And to think we’re actually identifying atmospheres. Science, man!

Reply
SpaceLover1984 June 26, 2023 - 2:52 pm

Wow, that’s some mind blowing info right there! Didn’t realize the planets were so close to each other. space is incredible, isn’t it?

Reply
ExoEric June 26, 2023 - 3:45 pm

Love reading about TRAPPIST-1, could be our new home someday :p But seriously, hats off to these astronomers, they’re doing a great job!

Reply

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