"It is extraordinary that we can measure this."
The James Webb Space Telescope just got a very close look at TRAPPIST-1 c, a rocky exoplanet located roughly 40 light-years away in the TRAPPIST-1 star system.
But before you get your hopes up, it's exceedingly unlikely the planet can harbor alien life, let alone become a new home for humanity. A study recently published by an international team of scientists in the journal Nature, suggests that TRAPPIST-1 c is wildly inhospitable.
"Our results are consistent with the planet being a bare rock with no atmosphere," Laura Kreidberg, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and a co-author on the study, said in a NASA statement, "or the planet having a really thin CO2 atmosphere (thinner than on Earth or even Mars) with no clouds."
TRAPPIST-1 is a red dwarf star, the most common type of star in our galaxy. The more we understand about the planets that orbit them, the more information we have about the feasibility of these stars supporting life.
In this case, however, it appears that life on TRAPPIST-1 c is extremely unlikely.
By studying data collected by James Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument, the researchers figured out how much radiation the planet receives from its host star, allowing them to calculate how hot the rocky exoplanet is.
And with a calculated daytime surface temperature of roughly 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it appears that TRAPPIST-1 c has pretty much no atmosphere at all — rendering it inhabitable for life as we know it.
The researchers were surprised by those results given some striking differences between the rocky planet and those in our own solar system.
"TRAPPIST-1 c is interesting because it’s basically a Venus twin: It's about the same size as Venus and receives a similar amount of radiation from its host star as Venus gets from the Sun," said Kreidberg. "We thought it could have a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere like Venus."
Still, Kreidberg added, it's pretty remarkable that we can measure this kind of information at all — and the discoveries are likely to just keep on coming.
"It is extraordinary that we can measure this," said Kreidberg. "There have been questions for decades now about whether rocky planets can keep atmospheres."
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