Temporal Evolution of the High-energy Irradiation and Water Content of TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 31, 2017
Filed under
Temporal Evolution of the High-energy Irradiation and Water Content of TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets

The ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 hosts seven Earth-size transiting planets, some of which could harbour liquid water on their surfaces.

UV observations are essential to measure their high-energy irradiation, and to search for photodissociated water escaping from their putative atmospheres. Our new observations of TRAPPIST-1 Ly-α line during the transit of TRAPPIST-1c show an evolution of the star emission over three months, preventing us from assessing the presence of an extended hydrogen exosphere.

Based on the current knowledge of the stellar irradiation, we investigated the likely history of water loss in the system. Planets b to d might still be in a runaway phase, and planets within the orbit of TRAPPIST-1g could have lost more than 20 Earth oceans after 8 Gyr of hydrodynamic escape. However, TRAPPIST-1e to h might have lost less than 3 Earth oceans if hydrodynamic escape stopped once they entered the habitable zone. We caution that these estimates remain limited by the large uncertainty on the planet masses.

They likely represent upper limits on the actual water loss because our assumptions maximize the XUV-driven escape, while photodissociation in the upper atmospheres should be the limiting process. Late-stage outgassing could also have contributed significant amounts of water for the outer, more massive planets after they entered the habitable zone. While our results suggest that the outer planets are the best candidates to search for water with the JWST, they also highlight the need for theoretical studies and complementary observations in all wavelength domains to determine the nature of the TRAPPIST-1 planets, and their potential habitability.

V.Bourrier, Wit, E.Bolmont, V.Stamenkovic, P.J.Wheatley, A.J. Burgasser, L.Delrez, B.-O.Demory, D.Ehrenreich, M.Gillon, E.Jehin, J.Leconte, S.M.Lederer, N.Lewis, A.H.M.J.Triaud, V.Van Grootel
(Submitted on 30 Aug 2017)

Comments: 19 pages, 14 figures, accepted for publication in AJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1708.09484 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1708.09484v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Vincent Bourrier Dr
[v1] Wed, 30 Aug 2017 21:50:42 GMT (11126kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻