Seven Planets Found in Red Dwarf System

NASA made a big announcement this week about new exoplanets found orbiting the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 some 39 light years away.  I’ve discussed this particular dwarf star system before (1), as it was already known to have three terrestrial planets in attendance orbiting very close to this cool, fairly dim star (2,3).  The dwarf star is approximately one tenth the size of the Sun, and it’s mass places it on the border between a brown dwarf and a red dwarf star.  Unusually for a star this small, TRAPPIST-1 has a high metallicity, which actually exceeds that of the Sun (4).

Now, an international team of astronomers, using the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope in Chile and the Spitzer infra-red space telescope, have released details about a further four terrestrial planets in this mini-star system, three of which (e, f and g) are located within it’s habitable zone, where temperatures favour the presence of liquid water (5):

“Researchers led by Michaël Gillon, of the University of Liège in Belgium, have been studying the infrared light emitted by this miniature star and have detected drops in luminosity characteristic of transits, i.e. the passage of astronomical bodies moving across its face.  As early as 2015, the first three planets (dubbed b, c and d) had been identified.  Tracking the system using TRAPPIST and the space telescope Spitzer, the team was then able to identify four others planets (e, f, g and h) in 2016.  Based on the frequency of these transits and the degree of reduction in luminosity of the star, they have demonstrated that these seven planets are all comparable in size to Earth (to within 15%), and orbit very close to their star.” (6)

These planets have an approximately resonant relationship with one another.  It’s highly unusual to discovery such a string of planetary pearls as these, so there’s no real way of knowing whether this is a ‘normal’ relationship.  But in this case, at least, it is thought that these planets must have migrated inwards from their original orbital positions, and this resonance came about from interactions between them as they did so (5).

This I find most interesting.  We have here a precedent for the inward migration of a set of terrestrial planets which originally formed from TRAPPIST-1’s proto-planetary disk at a much greater distance.  In so doing, they established a resonant relationship with one another as the planetary system settled down into an equilibrium state.  If such an arrangement is thought to happen here, could it not also have occurred in the early solar system?  Could Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars all have begun life further out in the solar system before migrating inwards, and establishing their own sequential equilibrium (the basis of which led to the now-superceded Titius-Bode Law)?  As an advocate of the possibility that Earth began life where the asteroid belt is currently located, I find this development very encouraging.

The phrase ‘ultra-cool dwarf star’, which has been used widely to describe TRAPPIST-1, may be misleading.  Indeed, the phrase was used by the team of international scientists working on TRAPPIST-1 system in the titles of their published papers in Nature (3, 5).    As mentioned, at ~83 Jupiter masses, TRAPPIST-1 is on the borderline of being able to burn hydrogen – unlike its smaller brown dwarf cousins.  ‘Ultra-cool’ is usually used to denote a sub-brown dwarf, whose mass lies  below the 13 Jupiter mass point where deuterium starts to burn.  Red dwarfs are simply smaller, cooler cousins of yellow dwarf stars, like the Sun.  The term ‘ultra-cool’ makes it sound like these objects lie way down at the bottom of the stellar spectrum, when in reality there is an additional spectrum of brown dwarfs and, yes, ‘ultra-cool’ sub-brown dwarfs beyond.

planet_lineup_trappist1_nasa

Then there’s the colour, which is a related issue.  Many of the published artistic images of TRAPPIST-1 and its seven planets show the central star appearing yellow, much like our Sun.  However, at 83Mj, TRAPPIST-1 would appear red.  I could understand how this might happen in the mainstream media, who would know no different about such matters.  However, it’s not at all clear to me why NASA’s own writers would place illustrations showing TRAPPIST-1 as a golden sun-like star in its own official press release (7).  This contrasts with their more accurate depiction of the TRAPPIST-1 red dwarf system in a NASA press release the previous year (8).  Do they simply want to appeal to a wider audience by giving the impression of habitable planets around a familiar yellow star?  Or do they want to avoid the conspiratorial connotations associated with seven planets orbiting a red star (for which I must reluctantly claim some credit)?

nasa_trappist1_view_darkstar

What’s even weirder, for me at least, is that NASA’s new artistic impression of the view of the TRAPPIST-1 system – as seen from one of its habitable planets – is very, very similar to my own painting created for the cover of my 2005 book ‘Dark Star’ (9).

TheDarkStar

Given the miniature nature of this red star and its tiny system of seven planets, I have to wonder whether this is a coincidence?  After all, such a description bears a remarkable resemblance to the Dark Star system I’ve been writing about for the best part of two decades.  Makes you wonder whether ‘Dark Star’ is sat on the bookshelves of some of NASA’s own people, doesn’t it?

Back in 2008, one of my fellow researchers, Al Cornette, wrote a book entitled “Seven Mountains and the Red Star”, which discussed a possible return of Nibiru for 2012.  This poetic description bears a rather uncanny resemblance to the planetary format of TRAPPIST-1 (which I’m now tempted to think of as ‘Cornette’s Star’).  In our respective books, Al and I both wrote about the Planet X phenomenon, whose description of a sizeable red planet and accompanying set of seven moons originates from the writings of Zecharia Sitchin (11).  Now, neither of us are even hinting that TRAPPIST-1 might be this system.  TRAPPIST-1 lies almost 40 light years away, whereas the Dark Star system (or planet Nibiru/Marduk as Sitchin described it) is necessarily orbiting our own Sun, whose influence extends to perhaps a single light year at best.  Nonetheless, both of us feel somewhat vindicated that these miniature planetary systems are a reality, and may offer the conditions for life in our galactic neighbourhood.  An important precedent has clearly been set.

 

Written by Andy Lloyd,  23rd February 2017

References:

1)  Andy Lloyd “Earth-like Planets Orbiting Ultra-Cool Dwarf Star” 26th May 2016, http://www.andylloyd.org/darkstarblog38.htm

2)  European Southern Observatory press release “Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found Around Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star” 2nd May 2016, ESO1615https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1615/

3)  Michael Gillon et al “Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star” Nature, 12th May 2016, 533, 221-224, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v533/n7602/full/nature17448.html

4)  “TRAPPIST-1” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRAPPIST-1

5)  M. Gillon et al “Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1,” Nature, 23rd February 2017, 542 (7642): 456, http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1706/eso1706a.pdf

6)  CNRS “A Planetary System that Could Support Life” 22nd February 2017 https://news.cnrs.fr/articles/a-planetary-system-that-could-support-life with thanks to Eitan

7)  NASA Press Release 17-015 “NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star” 22nd February 2017, https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around

8)  NASA Press Release 16-076 “NASA’s Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets” 20th July 2016 https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-hubble-telescope-makes-first-atmospheric-study-of-earth-sized-exoplanets

9)  Andy Lloyd “Dark Star: The Planet X Evidence” Timeless Voyager Press, 2005

10)  Al Cornette “Seven Mountains and the Red Star” Earth MacroVision, 2008, http://www.andylloyd.org/alcornette.htm

11)  Zecharia Sitchin “The Twelfth Planet” Avon Books, 1976

One thought on “Seven Planets Found in Red Dwarf System”

  1. Everything is coming up Milhouse! =)

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