First hint of water found on recently discovered TRAPPIST-1 planets

To arrive at the findings, the team used Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to analyse the amount of ultraviolet radiation each planet in the system was receiving.

This includes the three planets within the habitable zone of the star, lending further weight to the possibility that they may indeed be habitable.

An global team of scientists used Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to determine how much radiation beams down on each planet and analyze what effects this radiation may have on the hypothetical water supply.

“An global team of astronomers used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to estimate whether there might be water on the seven earth-sized planets orbiting the nearby dwarf star TRAPPIST-1″, reads a statement from the European Space Agency/Hubble Information Centre.

Those findings are now being supported by an global team of scientists working with the Hubble Space Telescope. On Earth, ultraviolet sunlight breaks molecules while in the atmosphere of exoplanets in Trappist-1 it breaks water vapor into oxygen and hydrogen.

Ultraviolet radiation is an important factor in the atmospheric evolution of planets”, said Bourrier in a statement. The scientists used Hubble to study the amount of ultraviolet light reaching the planets and to measure the amount of hydrogen these bodies are sending into space.

Although low energy ultraviolet rays can break the water molecules, the ultraviolet rays with high energy can heat the upper atmosphere of the planet and results in escaping of hydrogen and oxygen. “So, now we need to get more measurements, measurements of other wavelengths”. The presence of escaped atmospheric gas could be an indicator that water still exists on the Earth-sized exoplanets in the star system. TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, which orbit closest to their star and are hit by the most UV radiation, continue to bleed out water into space and are thought to have lost as much as 20 oceans’ worth in the past 8 billion years.

That theory seemed especially accurate for the innermost planets of the system, b, and c, as they have received the largest amount of ultraviolet energy.

The results suggest that the outer planets of the system might still harbour substantial amounts of water.

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool dwarf star only slightly larger than Jupiter, located approximately 40 light-years (378.4 trillion km) away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius. High-powered gravitational interactions are also believed to raise huge ocean tides that could further the chance of life spawning-or having been spawned-on one of the possibly habitable planets.

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