ASU Nexus for Exoplanet System Science

A Hubble Ultraviolet Analysis on TRAPPIST-1 Planets Reveals a Potential for Water

Credit: spacetelescope.org

Since the news release of TRAPPIST-1 in February of 2017, many astronomers and scientists have been using the raw data collected by Hubble to determine if these planets can be deemed habitable.  A recent study by Vincent Bourrier and a team of scientists shows that the outer planets have the potential to retain their water, including the ones in the habitable zone.  The study was conducted by utilizing Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to analyze how much UV radiation each planet is absorbing.  UV radiation is powerful enough to break up water molecules in the atmosphere thus having these particles escape into the atmosphere.  The dwarf star emits enough UV radiation to have the innermost planets lose large amounts of water, but the outermost receive just a fraction of that.  This analysis leads scientists to believe that water has a better chance of survival on the outermost planets based on the release rates calculated from the amount of UV radiation present on each planet.  The team of scientists believe this amount of UV radiation these planets experience is a key role in the evolution of the planet’s atmosphere and consequently their habitability.  Current technology and lack of studies on the atmospheres of these planets make it impossible to conclude if there is indeed water on the planets.  Later observations with upcoming telescopes and theoretical studies can help reveal if these planets do in fact have water.

A link to the full article can be accessed here.

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