Welcome to the second entry in my series on exoplanets based on NASA's Exoplanet Travel Bureau site. The site itself provides the gorgeous vintage travel posters and guided tours, but I wanted to do a deeper dive into these exoplanets.
Trappist 1e, whose official designation is 2MASS J23062928-0502285 e, is one of the seven Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. The TRAPPIST-1 system is located about 39.5 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius. Trappist-1e is part of a unique and exciting planetary system that's gained significant attention in the search for potentially habitable exoplanets. It was discovered in 2017 as part of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system; its discovery was the result of observations made using the transit method, which involves detecting the periodic dimming of a star's light as a planet passes in front of it. This is the method used by the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).
Trappist-1e is an Earth-sized exoplanet with a radius that is very close to that of Earth. Its mass is still being refined, but it's estimated to be very close to Earth's mass. It orbits an ultracool dwarf star (TRAPPIST-1) at a relatively close distance, completing one orbit roughly every 6.1 Earth days. This places it in the star's habitable zone-the region where conditions may be right for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface, which is a key factor for the potential habitability of a world. While it's in the habitable zone, the climate and conditions on Trappist-1e are highly uncertain and would depend on factors like its atmosphere and surface properties. Another challenge is that, like many exoplanets in close orbits around their stars, TRAPPIST-1e is likely tidally locked, meaning one side always faces the star while the other side is in perpetual darkness. This could lead to extreme temperature differences between the day and night sides. Without more data, it's challenging to determine the specifics of its climate.
Since its discovery, astronomers have been conducting follow-up observations and studies of Trappist-1e and the other planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. The TRAPPIST-1 system as a whole represents an important target for the study of exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life. Scientists aim to learn more about the planets' atmospheres, compositions, and conditions, as well as to search for signs of life using advanced techniques like spectroscopy.