Following its recent reveal, the TRAPPIST-1 system keeps offering more data about itself and the seven planets that compose it. Now, in the latest study on the matter, researchers have been able to establish and confirm some vital elements about the system’s orbital patterns. They managed to do so after taking a closer look at the seventh and last planet, the TRAPPIST-1h.
Despite its being the outermost planet of the TRAPPIST-1 system, TRAPPIST-1h was also the least understood. Now, as the system revealed details about it, so did the world offer data on TRAPPIST-1.
Study results became available on May 22 in the journal Nature Astronomy. The research team used data gathered by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST), and several other Earth-based telescopes.
The Seventh and Last Planet is no Longer so Unknown
The first information about the existence of the TRAPPIST-1 system was released back in February 2017. This showed that the TRAPPIST-1 star is orbited by seven temperate terrestrial planets, of which three could reportedly be habitable. But not much was known about the others, especially the seventh and last planet.
Now, this new study was able to establish that TRAPPIST-1h has an orbiting period of 19 days around its star. It also determined that this seventh planet is situated in the inhabitable zone, as it is most likely too cold to be able to sustain life.
“It’s incredibly exciting that we’re learning more about this planetary system elsewhere, especially about planet h, which we barely had information on until now,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen.
He is the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Thanks to these latest finds, the study team recognized a mathematical pattern in the TRAPPIST-1 orbiting scheme. Each of the six innermost planets was noted to orbit the TRAPPIST-1 at a particular frequency.
Although complex, the pattern was also predictable, as it was determined to be an orbital resonance. This takes place as the planets exert a periodic and regular gravitational tug on the others as they orbit their mother star.
NASA and the scientific world will continue studying the TRAPPIST-1 system. They are also hoping to point the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope at it, as this should be launched in October 2018. It should help determine if this system’s planets are indeed habitable, or not.
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