New research from astronomers at the University of Washington uses the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 planetary system as a kind of laboratory to model not the planets themselves, but how the upcoming James Webb Space Telescopes can detect and study their atmospheres, on the path to life-seeking beyond the Earth.
The study, led by Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, a UW doctoral student in astronomy, found that the James Webb telescope, scheduled to launch in 2021, could find basic information about in the atmospheres of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds even in its first year of operation, except – while a cloud of songs runs.
"The Webb telescope was built, and we have an idea of how to operate it," Lustig-Yaeger said. "We used computer modeling to determine the best way to use the telescope to answer the most basic question we wanted to ask, which is: Are there even atmospheres on these planets, or not?"
His paper, "The Detectability and Characterization of TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanet Atmospheres with JWST," was published online in June in the Astronomical Journal .
The TRAPPIST-1 system, 39 light-years – or nearly 235 trillion miles. – Except for the constellation of Aquarius, astronomers' interest is due to seven orbits that are rocky, or similar to Earth. Three of these worlds are in the habitat of a star formation – which sinks into space around a star just right to allow liquid water to surface on a rocky planet, thus giving life a chance.
The star, TRAPPIST-1, is warmer when formed than it is today, which could subject all seven planets to the ocean, ice and atmospheric loss in the past.
"There is a big question in the field today whether or not planets still have atmospheres. Especially internal planets," Lustig-Yaeger said. "Once we have confirmed that there are atmospheres, then what can we learn about the atmosphere of each planet – the molecules that make up it?"
Because of the way he suggested the James Webb Space Telescope could be searched, it could learn a lot in a relatively short time, this paper found.
Astronomers find exoplanets when they pass in front or "transit" of their host star, resulting in a measurable starlight dimming. The planets closer to their stars transit more often and thus are relatively easy to study. When a planet moves its star, little starlight passes through the atmosphere of the planet, where astronomers can learn about the molecular composition of the sky.
Lustig-Yaeger says that astronomers will see little variation in the size of the planet when they look at different colors, or wavelengths, of light.
"This is because the gases in the planet's atmosphere absorb light only in very specific colors. Since each gas has a unique & # 39; spectral fingerprint, & # 39; we can recognize them." and the composition of the exoplanet environment begins to come together. "
Lustig-Yaeger argues that team modeling suggests the James Webb telescope, using a versatile onboard tool called Near-Infrared Spectrograph, can see the atmospheres of all seven TRAPPIST-1 planets. to 10 or fewer transfers – if they have cloud-free atmospheres. And of course we don't know if they have clouds.
If TRAPPIST-1 planets have thick, globally immersed clouds like Venus does, the detection of atmospheres can take up to 30 shifts.
"But that is a promising goal," he said. "This means that even in the case of realistic high-altitude clouds, the James Webb telescope is also capable of seeing the presence of atmospheres – even before our role became known." years, but astronomers have never seen their atmospheres. Modeling this study, Lustig-Yaeger said, "it shows, for this TRAPPIST-1 system, that the terrestrial exoplanet atmospheres are gathering horizons with the James Webb Space Telescope – probably is within its core five-year mission. "  The team found that Webb's telescope could see signs that the TRAPPIST-1 planets had lost a lot of water in the past, as the star became warmer. This could leave behind instances where abiotically producing oxygen – not representative of life – fills an exoplanet environment, which can provide a kind of "false positivity" for life. If this were the case with the TRAPPIST-1 planets, the Webb telescope could see the same.
The co-authors of Lustig-Yaeger, both with the UW, are a professor of astronomy Victoria Meadows, chief investigator for. the UW-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory; and doctoral student of astronomy Andrew Lincowski. The work follows, in part, the previous work by possible Lincowski modeling for the seven TRAPPIST-1 worlds.
"Through this study, we looked at: What are the best cases for the James Webb Space Telescope? What can it do? Because there will certainly be more Earth-sized planets found before it launches in 2021. "
The research was funded by a team from the NASA Astrobiology Program's Virtual Planetary Laboratory team, as part of the Neoport for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research coordination. network.
Lustig-Yaeger added: "It is difficult to conceive the theory of a planetary system more suitable for James Webb than TRAPPIST-1."
Study brings new models of small-scale climate TRAPPIST 1 of seven intriguing worlds
Jacob Lustig-Yaeger et al. Detection and Characteristics of TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanet Atmospheres with JWST, The Astronomical Journal (2019). DOI: 10.3847 / 1538-3881 / ab21e0
The James Webb Space Telescope may begin to know about TRAPPIST-1 atmospheres in a single year, the study indicates (2019, August 14)
retrieved on 14th August
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