TRAPPIST-1 Planet May Be Wet and Life-Friendly

The cool M-dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 likely has seven planets orbiting it. Credit: NASA
One of seven planets orbiting a small star, TRAPPIST-1, may be capable of supporting life as we know it on Earth, new climate models suggest.

By Samantha Mathewson |

Located 39 light-years away from Earth, TRAPPIST-1 is a relatively cool M-dwarf star with about 9 percent the mass of Earth’s sun and about 12 percent its radius. This ultracool star is believed to host at least seven rocky planets that are about the size of Earth or smaller.

Using terrestrial climate and photochemistry models, researchers from the University of Washington (UW) simulated environmental states for each planet of the TRAPPIST-1 system. The models show that all seven exoplanets likely evolved like Venus, meaning that any water or oceans would have evaporated early on in the system’s formation, the research team said in a statement. [What Would Life Be Like on the TRAPPIST-1 Planets?]

According to these models, the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 would have dense, uninhabitable atmospheres. However, one of the worlds, called TRAPPIST-1e, may host liquid water on its surface and, as a result, be able to support Earth-like life, according to the statement.

„We are modeling unfamiliar atmospheres, not just assuming that the things we see in the solar system will look the same way around another star,“ Andrew Lincowski, a UW doctoral student and lead author of the study, said in the statement. „We conducted this research to show what these different types of atmospheres could look like.“

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