Planets Orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 Star Might Not be Great for Life After All

Artist’s render of the TRAPPIST-1 system. Image: ESO/M.Kornmesser Themenbild
Frequent solar flares from red dwarfs make the exoplanets less than ideal.

By Brad Bergan | MOTHERBOARD

In February, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered the first system of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star called TRAPPIST-1. The space community was abuzz with the discovery, which added this red dwarf star to a growing list of ultra-cool stars hosting possibly habitable planets.

When scientists are seeking planets that may be friendly to life, they’re usually looking for three characteristics—a rocky surface, about the mass of Earth (for gravity’s sake), and an orbit that is within its respective star’s „goldilocks zone,“ where there’s enough energy for liquid water, but not so much that the atmosphere begins to boil away.

But a new ten-year study of 10,000 red dwarfs from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, a space telescope NASA launched in 2003 to observe 10 billion years of intergalactic history in ultraviolet light is not up to snuff.

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