Solar system 2.0? Data from James Web sheds new light on Earth-like planets

In 2017, NASA announced that the TRAPPIST-1 star system, first discovered in 1999, features the Earth’s largest planet ever discovered within the habitable zone of a single star.

Some have called the system “Solar System 2.0” because of its similarity to this cosmic region.

Last year, NASA announced that it would point its state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope instrument at the star system and its planets. The first results point to his TRAPPIST-1b exoplanet.

Unfortunately, for this planet, the similarities to Earth are only superficial. “There are no signs of an atmosphere on the Earth-sized exoplanet TRAPPIST-1b,” the scientists behind the observations said in a press statement.

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Solar system 2.0?

All planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system have been previously observed using transmission spectroscopy by the Hubble Space Telescope or the Spitzer Space Telescope.

A July 2016 study based on Hubble data showed that TRAPPIST-1b and c are unlikely to have hydrogen-dominant atmospheres typical of gas giant planets. This reinforced the case that these planets were likely rocky and could potentially hold liquid water. However, no atmospheric features have been detected on the exoplanets of the system, even though the four closest planets were within the system’s habitable zone.

Researchers used Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to observe medium- to long-wave radiation emitted from the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1b. The planet is closest to the system’s dwarf star M, orbiting its parent star in just 1.9 Earth days.

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It receives four times as much radiation from the Sun as it does on Earth. That means heat emissions from exoplanets are measurable and could shed light on the planet’s atmosphere.

We then examined how these space programs stepped up their efforts during the “Race to the Moon” and settled in for long-term stays in orbit during the Space Shuttle Era. Today, we will examine the developments that took place towards the end of the 20th century that would lead to the current state of space exploration and the technology that makes it possible.

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