While NASA’s recent announcement of the discovery of seven Earth-size exoplanets found orbiting the nearby ultracool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1 was exciting enough, the fact that it has been claimed that three of these worlds are potentially habitable has really electrified the astronomical community. This system of transiting exoplanets, all similar to Earth in radius and mass but differing mainly in their mean stellar flux values, makes TRAPPIST-1 an ideal laboratory for studying the formation, evolution and potential habitability of Earth-size exoplanets, especially those orbiting red dwarfs.
In my latest essay for Centauri Dreams, entitled “The (Potentially) Habitable Worlds of TRAPPIST-1”, I take a closer look at the claims being made about these exoplanets’ potential habitability. Unlike some apparently fantastic claims made about other planetary systems in recent years, I find that this claim actually has some merit, given what we currently know about these exoplanets in particular and planetary habitability in general. I also take a closer look at the properties of these exoplanets and what hints they may offer about the potential habitability of red dwarf exoplanets in general – possibly the most numerous class of habitable worlds that may exist in the galaxy! Finally I mention what new things we may find out about these worlds in just the next few months from new observations already being made and analyzed.
For those who might want a more thorough discussion of the current history of observations made of TRAPPIST-1, the properties of its exoplanets and their potential habitability, please check out Drew Ex Machina’s “Habitable Planet Reality Check: The Seven Planets of TRAPPIST-1”.
“The (Potentially) Habitable Worlds of TRAPPIST-1”, Centauri Dreams, February 27, 2017 [Post]
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“Habitable Planet Reality Check: The Seven Planets of TRAPPIST-1”, Drew Ex Machina, February 25, 2017 [Post]
“Habitable Planet Reality Check: TRAPPIST-1”, Drew Ex Machina, May 3, 2016 [Post]