The Webb Space Telescope has found no evidence of an atmosphere at one of the seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby star.
Scientists said on Monday that does not bode well for the rest of the planets in this solar system, some of which are in the sweet spot for harbouring water and potentially life.
The Nasa-led team reported little if no atmosphere exists at the innermost planet in the Trappist system, 40 light years away.
The researchers used a special technique geared towards a warm planet like this one. Results were published on Monday in the journal Nature.
TRAPPIST-1 b: We give it a one (M-dwarf) star review; it lacks atmosphere. ⭐
Webb found the dayside temperature of this rocky exoplanet to be about 450º F (227º C) — suggesting it has no significant atmosphere: https://t.co/TGYqguDgT4
Here’s why this is a big deal ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/7kW8nKxC4UAdvertisement
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) March 27, 2023
The lack of an atmosphere would mean no water and no protection from cosmic rays, said Nasa’s Thomas Greene, the lead researcher.
As for the other planets orbiting the small, feeble Trappist star, “I would have been more optimistic about the others” having atmospheres if this one had, Mr Greene said.
Because this innermost planet is bombarded by solar radiation – four times as much as Earth gets from our sun – it is possible that extra energy is why there is no atmosphere, Mr Greene said.
More observations are planned not only of this planet, but the others in the Trappist system.