TRAPPIST-1 Worlds Are Rocky and Rich in Water, New Research Uncovers | 9/5/2018 | Staff
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The seven planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 are mostly rocky, with some potentially holding more liquid water than Earth.

New research reveals the density of the worlds within this crowded system to a greater precision than ever before. The findings reveal that some of the planets could have up to 5 percent of their mass in liquid water form, about 250 times as much water as found in Earth's oceans.

Addition - Composition - Exoplanets - Researchers - Worlds

In addition to narrowing down the composition of the exoplanets, the researchers also found that one of the worlds could boast some familiar characteristics.

"TRAPPIST-1e is the exoplanet which is most similar to Earth in terms of mass, radius and energy received from its star," Grimm said.

System - Grimm - Colleagues - System - Technique

Intrigued by the system, Grimm and his colleagues decided to measure the system using a technique known as transit-timing variations (TTVs). By observing small variations in the amount of time it takes a world to pass between its star and our viewpoint, called a transit, TTVs allow researchers to make some of the most sensitive observations of planetary masses and densities.

"Using TTVs is currently the only method to determine the masses and therefore the densities of planets like the TRAPPIST-1 system," Grimm said.

Methods - Planets - Star - Method - Astronomers

Other methods don't work because the planets are too lightweight or the star is too faint, he said. The method allows astronomers to determine the mass of the planets relative to the stellar masses. Combined with the radii measured as the planet transits its star, the technique reveals the densities of each world.

The researchers relied on data captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and several of the European Southern Observatory's instruments in Chile to make detailed observations that could reveal the variations in planetary orbits.

Planet - Star - Pull

If one planet traveled around its star alone, then the only gravitational pull it would feel...
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