Jump to content


Coordinates: Sky map 23h 06m 29.283s, −05° 02′ 28.59″
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Artist's impression of TRAPPIST-1e from 2018, depicted here as a tidally locked planet with a liquid ocean. The actual appearance of the exoplanet is currently unknown, but based on its density, it is likely not entirely covered in water.
Discovered byMichaël Gillon et al.
Discovery siteSpitzer Space Telescope
Discovery date22 February 2017
Orbital characteristics[2]
0.02925±0.00025 AU
6.101013±0.000035 d
Physical characteristics[2]
Mass0.692±0.022 M🜨
Mean density
0.817±0.024 g
8.01±0.24 m/s2
TemperatureTeq: 249.7±2.4 K (−23.5 °C; −10.2 °F)[5]

TRAPPIST-1e, also designated as 2MASS J23062928-0502285 e, is a rocky, close-to-Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone around the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, located 40.7 light-years (12.5 parsecs; 385 trillion kilometers; 239 trillion miles) away from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. Astronomers used the transit method to find the exoplanet, a method that measures the dimming of a star when a planet crosses in front of it.

The exoplanet was one of seven discovered orbiting the star using observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope.[1][6] Three of the seven (e, f, and g) are in the habitable zone or the "goldilocks zone".[7][8] TRAPPIST-1e is similar to Earth's mass, radius, density, gravity, temperature, and stellar flux.[3][9] It is also confirmed that TRAPPIST-1e lacks a cloud-free hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, meaning it is more likely to have a compact atmosphere like the terrestrial planets in the Solar System.[10]

In November 2018, researchers determined that of the seven exoplanets in the multi-planetary system, TRAPPIST-1e has the best chance of being an Earth-like ocean planet, and the one most worthy of further study regarding habitability.[11] According to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, TRAPPIST-1e is among the best potentially habitable exoplanets discovered.[12]

Physical characteristics


Mass, radius, composition and temperature


TRAPPIST-1e was detected with the transit method, where the planet blocked a small percentage of its host star's light when passing between it and Earth. This allowed scientists to accurately determine the planet's radius at 0.920 R🜨, with a small uncertainty of about 83 km (52 mi). Transit-timing variations and advanced computer simulations helped constrain the planet's mass, which turned out to be 0.692 M🜨, or about 15% less massive than Venus.[2] TRAPPIST-1e has 82% the surface gravity of Earth, the third-lowest in the system. Its radius and mass are also the third-least among the TRAPPIST-1 planets.[2]

With both the radius and mass of TRAPPIST-1e determined with low error margins, scientists could accurately calculate the planet's density, surface gravity, and composition. Initial density estimates in 2018 suggested it has a density of 5.65 g/cm3, about 1.024 times Earth's density of 5.51 g/cm3. TRAPPIST-1e appeared to be unusual in its system, as it was the only planet with a density consistent with a pure rock-iron composition, and the only one with a higher density than Earth (TRAPPIST-1c also appeared to be entirely rock, but with a lower density than TRAPPIST-1e). The higher density of TRAPPIST-1e implies an Earth-like composition and a solid rocky surface. This also appeared to be unusual among the TRAPPIST-1 planets, as most were thought to have densities consistent with being completely covered in either a thick steam/hot CO2 atmosphere, a global liquid ocean, or an ice shell.[3] However, refined estimates show that all planets in the system have similar densities, consistent with rocky compositions, with TRAPPIST-1e having a somewhat lower but still Earth-like bulk density.[2]

The planet has a calculated equilibrium temperature of 246.1 K (−27.1 °C; −16.7 °F) given an albedo of 0, also known as its "blackbody" temperature.[9] For a more realistic Earth-like albedo however, this provides an unrealistic picture of the surface temperature of the planet. Earth's equilibrium temperature is 255 K;[13][better source needed] it is Earth's greenhouse gases that raise its surface temperatures to the levels we experience. If TRAPPIST-1e has a thick atmosphere, its surface could be much warmer than its equilibrium temperature.

Host star


The planet orbits an (late M-type) ultracool dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1. The star has a mass of 0.089 M – near the boundary between a brown dwarf and low-mass star – and a radius of 0.121 R. It has a temperature of 2,516 K (2,243 °C; 4,069 °F) and is 7.6 billion years old. In comparison, the Sun is 4.6 billion years old[14] and has a temperature of 5,778 K (5,505 °C; 9,941 °F).[15] The star is metal-rich, with a metallicity ([Fe/H]) of 0.04, or 109% the solar amount. This is particularly odd as such low-mass stars near the boundary between brown dwarfs and hydrogen-fusing stars should be expected to have considerably less metal content than the Sun. Its luminosity (L) is 0.0522% of that of the Sun.

The star's apparent magnitude, or how bright it appears from Earth's perspective, is 18.8. Therefore, it is far too dim to be seen with the naked eye.



TRAPPIST-1e orbits its host star quite closely. One full revolution around TRAPPIST-1 takes only 6.099 Earth days (~146 hours) to complete. It orbits at a distance of 0.02928285 AU (4.4 million km; 2.7 million mi), or just under 3% the separation between Earth and the Sun. For comparison, the closest planet in the Solar System, Mercury, takes 88 days to orbit the Sun at a distance of 0.38 AU (57 million km; 35 million mi). Despite its close proximity to its host star, TRAPPIST-1e gets only about 60% the starlight that Earth gets from the Sun due to the low luminosity of its star. The star would cover an angular diameter of about 2.17 degrees from the surface of the planet, and so would appear about four times larger than the Sun does from Earth.



TRAPPIST-1e is confirmed to not have a cloud-free hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, meaning it is more likely to have a compact, hydrogen-free atmosphere like those of the Solar System's rocky planets, further raising the chances of habitability. Hydrogen is a powerful greenhouse gas, so if there was enough to be easily detected, it would mean that the surface of TRAPPIST-1e would be inhospitable.[10] Since such an atmosphere is not present, it raises the chances for the planet to have a more Earth-like atmosphere instead. However, no atmosphere has been detected, and it is still possible that the planet has no atmosphere at all. Additionally, no helium emission from TRAPPIST-1e was detected as of 2021.[16]


Artist's impression of the TRAPPIST-1 system, seen from above the surface of one of the planets in the habitable zone

The exoplanet was announced to be orbiting within the habitable zone of its parent star, the region where, with the correct conditions and atmospheric properties, liquid water may exist on the surface of the planet. TRAPPIST-1e has a radius of around 0.91 R🜨, so it is likely a rocky planet. Its host star is a red ultracool dwarf, with only about 8% of the mass of the Sun (close to the boundary between brown dwarfs and hydrogen-fusing stars). As a result, stars like TRAPPIST-1 have the potential to remain stable for up to 12 trillion years, which is over 2,000 times longer than the Sun.[17] Because of this ability to live for such a long period of time, it is likely TRAPPIST-1 will be one of the last remaining stars in the Universe, when the gas needed to form new stars will be exhausted, and the existing stars begin to die off.

Other factors and 2018 studies


Despite being likely tidally locked – meaning one hemisphere permanently faces the star while the other does not – which may reduce the habitability of the planet, more detailed studies of TRAPPIST-1e and the other TRAPPIST-1 planets released in 2018 determined that the planet is one of the most Earth-sized worlds found, with 91% the radius, 77% the mass, 102.4% the density (5.65 g/cm3), and 93% the surface gravity. TRAPPIST-1e is confirmed to be a terrestrial planet with a solid, rocky surface. It is cool enough for liquid water to pool on the surface, but not so cold that it would freeze like on TRAPPIST-1f, g, and h.[3]

The planet receives a stellar flux 60.4% that of Earth, about a third lower than that of Earth but significantly more than that of Mars.[9] Its equilibrium temperature ranges from 225 K (−48 °C; −55 °F)[18] to 246.1 K (−27.1 °C; −16.7 °F),[9] depending on how much light the planet reflects into space. Both of these are between those of Earth and Mars as well. In addition, its atmosphere is confirmed to not be dense or thick enough to harm the habitability potential as well, according to models by the University of Washington.[10] The atmosphere, if it is dense enough, may also help to transfer additional heat to the dark side of the planet.

2024 studies


According to a 2024 study, based on modeling, TRAPPIST-1e could be having its atmosphere stripped by its host star which would make it inhospitable to life. The same phenomenon could impact the atmospheres of the other planets in this system.[19][20] As of April 2024, it is not yet known whether TRAPPIST-1e has an atmosphere based on observation.

Future observations


As it is one of the most promising potentially habitable exoplanets known, TRAPPIST-1e was an early target of the James Webb Space Telescope in a research program led by Nikole Lewis. Launched on 25 December 2021, the telescope allows more extensive analysis of the planet's atmosphere, facilitating the search for any chemical signs of life, or biosignatures.[21]



A team of astronomers headed by Michaël Gillon[22] used the TRAPPIST (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in the Atacama desert, Chile,[23] to observe TRAPPIST-1 and search for orbiting planets. By utilising transit photometry, they discovered three Earth-sized planets orbiting the dwarf star; the innermost two are tidally locked to their host star while the outermost appears to lie either within the system's habitable zone or just outside of it.[24][25] The team made their observations from September–December 2015 and published its findings in the May 2016 issue of the journal Nature.[23][6]

Artist's impression of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system.

The original claim and presumed size of the planet was revised when the full seven-planet system was revealed in 2017:

"We already knew that TRAPPIST-1, a small, faint star some 40 light years away, was special. In May 2016, a team led by Michaël Gillon at Belgium’s University of Liege announced it was closely orbited by three planets that are probably rocky: TRAPPIST-1b, c and d ...
"As the team kept watching shadow after shadow cross the star, three planets no longer seemed like enough to explain the pattern. "At some point we could not make sense of all these transits," Gillon said.
"Now, after using the space-based Spitzer telescope to stare at the system for almost three weeks straight, Gillon and his team have solved the problem: TRAPPIST-1 has four more planets.
"The planets closest to the star, TRAPPIST-1b and c, are unchanged. But there's a new third planet, which has taken the d moniker, and what had looked like d before turned out to be glimpses of e, f, and g. There's a planet h, too, drifting farthest out, and only spotted once."[26]



See also



  1. ^ a b Gillon, Michaël; Triaud, Amaury H.M.J.; et al. (23 February 2017). "Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1". Nature. 542 (7642): 456–460. arXiv:1703.01424. Bibcode:2017Natur.542..456G. doi:10.1038/nature21360. PMC 5330437. PMID 28230125.
  2. ^ a b c d e Agol, Eric; Dorn, Caroline; Grimm, Simon L.; Turbet, Martin; et al. (1 February 2021). "Refining the Transit-timing and Photometric Analysis of TRAPPIST-1: Masses, Radii, Densities, Dynamics, and Ephemerides". The Planetary Science Journal. 2 (1): 1. arXiv:2010.01074. Bibcode:2021PSJ.....2....1A. doi:10.3847/psj/abd022. S2CID 222125312.
  3. ^ a b c d e Grimm, Simon L.; Demory, Brice-Olivier; et al. (21 January 2018). "The nature of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 613 (A68). 21. arXiv:1802.01377. Bibcode:2018A&A...613A..68G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201732233. S2CID 3441829. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  4. ^ van Grootel, Valerie; Fernandes, Catarina S.; et al. (5 December 2017). "Stellar parameters for TRAPPIST-1". The Astrophysical Journal. 853 (1): 30. arXiv:1712.01911. Bibcode:2018ApJ...853...30V. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aaa023. S2CID 54034373.
  5. ^ Ducrot, E.; Gillon, M.; Delrez, L.; Agol, E.; et al. (1 August 2020). "TRAPPIST-1: Global results of the Spitzer Exploration Science Program Red Worlds". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 640: A112. arXiv:2006.13826. Bibcode:2020A&A...640A.112D. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201937392. ISSN 0004-6361. S2CID 220041987.
  6. ^ a b Gillon, Michaël; Jehin, Emmanuël; et al. (2 May 2016). "Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star". Nature. 533 (7602): 221–224. arXiv:1605.07211. Bibcode:2016Natur.533..221G. doi:10.1038/nature17448. PMC 5321506. PMID 27135924.
  7. ^ NASA (21 February 2017). "NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star". NASA.gov. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  8. ^ NASA; Jet Propulsion Laboratory (22 February 2017). "TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup". NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d Delrez, Laetitia; Gillon, Michael; et al. (9 January 2018). "Early 2017 observations of TRAPPIST-1 with Spitzer". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 475 (3): 3577. arXiv:1801.02554. Bibcode:2018MNRAS.475.3577D. doi:10.1093/mnras/sty051. S2CID 54649681. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  10. ^ a b c de Wit, Julien; Wakeford, Hannah R.; et al. (5 February 2018). "Atmospheric reconnaissance of the habitable-zone Earth-sized planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1". Nature Astronomy. 2 (3). Nature: 214–219. arXiv:1802.02250. Bibcode:2018NatAs...2..214D. doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0374-z. S2CID 119085332. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  11. ^ Kelley, Peter (21 November 2018). "Study brings new climate models of small star TRAPPIST 1's seven intriguing worlds". EurekAlert!. University of Washington. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  12. ^ "The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog". Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo (phl.upr.edu). University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. 6 December 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Equilibrium Temperatures of Planets". burro.case.edu. n.d. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  14. ^ Williams, Matt (22 December 2015). "What is the Life Cycle Of The Sun?". Universe Today. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  15. ^ Cain, Fraser (8 October 2013). "What Color is the Sun?". Universe Today. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  16. ^ Krishnamurthy, Vigneshwaran; Hirano, Teruyuki; et al. (2 August 2021). "Nondetection of Helium in the Upper Atmospheres of TRAPPIST-1b, e, and f*". The Astronomical Journal. 162 (3): 82. arXiv:2106.11444. Bibcode:2021AJ....162...82K. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/ac0d57.
  17. ^ Adams, Fred C.; Laughlin, Gregory; Graves, Genevieve J.M. (December 2004). "Red Dwarfs and the End of the Main Sequence". Gravitational Collapse: From massive stars to planets. Vol. 22. Revista Mexicana de Astronomía y Astrofísica (Serie de Conferencias). pp. 46–49. Bibcode:2004RMxAC..22...46A.
  18. ^ Mendez, Abel (2021). "HEC: Exoplanets Calculator". Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo. University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  19. ^ Cohen, Ofer; Glocer, Alex; et al. (February 2024). "Heating of the Atmospheres of Short-orbit Exoplanets by Their Rapid Orbital Motion through an Extreme Space Environment". The Astrophysical Journal. 962 (2): 157. arXiv:2401.14459. Bibcode:2024ApJ...962..157C. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ad206a.
  20. ^ Robert Lea (28 February 2024). "Possibly habitable Trappist-1 exoplanet caught destroying its own atmosphere". Space.com. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  21. ^ Jenner, Lynn, ed. (5 February 2020). "NASA's Webb Will Seek Atmospheres around Potentially Habitable Exoplanets". NASA.gov. NASA. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  22. ^ Michaël Gillon is part of the Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique at the University of Liège: "AGO - Department of Astrophysics, Geophysics and Oceanography". ago.ulg.ac.be. Belgium: University of Liège. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  23. ^ a b Sample, Ian (2 May 2016). "Could these newly-discovered planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf host life?". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  24. ^ Gillon, Michaël; de Wit, Julien; Hook, Richard (2 May 2016). "Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found Around Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star". ESO.org. European Southern Observatory. eso1615. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  25. ^ Bennett, Jay (2 May 2016). "Three Newly Discovered Planets Are the Best Bets for Life Outside the Solar System". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  26. ^ Sokol, Joshua (22 February 2017). "Exoplanet discovery: Seven Earth-size exoplanets may have water". Space. New Scientist. Retrieved 7 November 2022.