Scientists find TRAPPIST-1 to be aged between 5.4 & 9.8 billion years

Geronimo Vena
Agosto 12, 2017

TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven Earth-size planets orbiting around a nearby star, is up to twice as old as our solar system, NASA announced Friday.

The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 were revealed earlier this year in NASA news conference, using a combination of results from the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and other ground-based telescopes.

The system's seniority means the planets have had plenty of time to potentially evolve life, but it also means said life would have had to survive a diverse array of disruptions. If the planets are newly formed, their orbits may also be unstable.

Three of the TRAPPIST-1 planets reside in the star's "habitable zone", the orbital distance where a rocky planet with an atmosphere could have liquid water on its surface. According to a new study, conducted by a team of global scientists from the University of California, San Diego, the approximate age of TRAPPIST-1 is 5.4 to 9.8 billion years, which means it is double the age of our solar system.

All seven planets are likely tidally locked to their star, each with a perpetual dayside and nightside.

The TRAPPIST-1 system is between 5.4 billion and 9.8 billion years old.

However, even this lower age limit was uncertain. Older stars are faster. Burgasser worked with Eric Mamajek, deputy program scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, to calculate TRAPPIST-1's age. This means that it was possible for liquid water to exist on the surface of the planets, a prerequisite for life as we know it on Earth.

The stars are relatively tame so frequent stellar activity in the form of solar flares would not make the planets less hospitable, as is the case with TRAPPIST-1.

Burgasser said his team was able to find the age of Trappist-1 by measuring the changes and movement of the stars in the system. On the other hand, since the planets are so close to the star, they have soaked up billions of years of high-energy radiation, which could have boiled off atmospheres and large amounts of water. NASA researchers have now found out that the TRAPPIST-1 system is older than the solar system.

Astrophysicists said it suggests there could be life on these planets.

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