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3 planets in the Trappist-1 system are COVERED in water—increasing chances of finding alien life

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A new study finds Trappist-1 alien worlds are COVERED with water and may have LIFE.

Alien life could be VERY likely in the Trappist-1 system as experts have found that at least three alien worlds could be covered with liquid water.

The chances of discovering alien life—specifically in the Trappist-1 system—have drastically increased as experts using the Hubble space telescope have discovered that at least THREE alien worlds in its habitable zone of the system are covered with liquid water on their surface.

Experts have concluded—after studying the star and its planets with the Hubble space telescope that four planets orbiting the Trappist-1 star, including three in the habitable zone of the star may contain ‘substantial’ amount of water on their surface.

The new study, solely based on new Hubble Space Telescope observations, has allowed scientists to assess the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches each planet in the nearby system.

This graphic compares the distance of planets from the host star in the TRAPPIST-1 system and the solar system.

Using an onboard imaging spectrograph from Hubble, an international team of astronomers studied the amount of ultraviolet radiation impacted by each of the Trappist-1 planets and made the necessary calculations to determine how this radiation might be influencing in the amount of water on their surface.

Experts have found that even though Trappis-1’s inner planets have lost massive amounts of liquid water over their long—billion-year-old history, equivalent to more than 20 Earth oceans—the planets located further away are believed to have escaped such fate and may have retained significant amount of water on their surface, which in turn greatly increases their chances of hosting alien life forms.

Throughout observations in the past couple of months, scientists have identified seven exoplanets in the Trappist 1 system. Three of them are located in the Goldilocks zone, where experts believe the conditions are just right for liquid water to exist on the surface.

This is the first study which clearly shows that there’s water on the Trappist-1 planets, and its a huge boost for the search for alien lifeforms.

This artist’s concept shows what each of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may look like, based on available data about their sizes, masses, and orbital distances.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Lead author Swiss astronomer Vincent Bourrier, from the Observatoire de l’Université de Genève, said: “Ultraviolet radiation is an important factor in the atmospheric evolution of planets.”

“As in our own atmosphere, where ultraviolet sunlight breaks molecules apart, ultraviolet starlight can break water vapor in the atmospheres of exoplanets into hydrogen and oxygen.”

The finding represents another clue as to Trappist-1’s potential to harbor extraterrestrial life.

Since the confirmed discovery of the exoplanets in February, astronomers noted that it has an unusually large habitable zone, as well as great potential for interplanetary microbial contamination (ie panspermia) and large oceanic tides caused by strong gravitational interactions.

All this is good for life.

On the other hand, the images of Trappist-1 indicate the presence of strong occasional solar flares, which are not ideal for life to develop and exist on some of the planets.

Astronomers know how Lower-energy ultraviolet radiation breaks up water molecules—and combined with higher-energy UV and X-rays, the upper atmosphere of a planet can retain heat enough to allow the breakdown products to escape.

Experts note how the escaping hydrogen can then be detected using instruments like those on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

By observing the planets on Trappist-1, and then calculating the water loss and geophysical water release rates, astronomers found how some of the planets may have lost nearly all of their water due to the incoming ultraviolet radiation from their host star. Astronomers discovered that Trappist-1b and d may be in a runaway phase, and Trappist-1g may have lost over 20 Earth oceans worth of water over the course of 8 billion years, according to the study.

However, experts note in their study how planets Trappist-1e, 1f, 1g, and 1h may have lost less water.

“Our results indicate that atmospheric escape may play an important role in the evolution of these planets,” concluded co-author Julien de Wit, of MIT.

To understand more about the planets, experts say that these three planets in the Trappist-1 system could be ideal targets for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which could help experts understand more about the planets and even find out whether or not the worlds are inhabited.

Dr. Amaury Triaud, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, added:

“Hubble’s observations are of great significance, since they inform us on the irradiative environment of the TRAPPIST-1 planets, notably on whether they can remain habitable for billions of years like Earth has. However, some of our conclusions about the habitability of TRAPPIST-1’s seven are somewhat dampened by our fuzzy knowledge about the masses of the planets. Crucial observations, able to refine the planetary masses, are being obtained as we write.”

You can read the full paper here.


Featured image credit: ESO/N. Bartmann/spaceengine.org