Using data from the JWST, an amateur on Reddit created the first image of the TRAPPIST-1 system. JWST, a telescope so powerful that it makes Hubble look like someone smeared their thumb on the lens, has already taken a long first look at the TRAPPIST-1 system, which will excite exoplanet fans.
Using publicly available data from the JWST, Redditor arizonaskies2022 was able to piece together the first image of the star, potentially while one of its planets was transiting it, though this has not yet been confirmed.
“Both images are public raw data files I found and downloaded from MAST website,” Arizonaskies2022 explained on the JWST subreddit. “I did minimal processing neither image is cropped just a little stretch and color.”
intrigues astronomers for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it has seven roughly Earth-sized planets orbiting it, three of which are in the habitable zone. The ultra-cool red dwarf is only 40 light-years away from us, making it easier to study, and it may even contain large amounts of water.
Now that JWST is pointed at it, we may be able to learn more about the planets’ atmospheres, if they have any at all.
“Our goal,” principal investigator of a JWST program surveying four of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets, Olivia Lim, told The Planetary Society, “is to tell whether the planets TRAPPIST-1b, c, g, and h have an atmosphere or not, and to do that, we will try to detect features of molecules such as carbon dioxide, water, and ozone in the transit spectra of those planets.”
The findings of these studies
will not only tell us about TRAPPIST-1 and its planets, but they may also help us make educated guesses about other solar systems and where to look for life. For example, if we discovered that rocky planets closer to the star were devoid of atmosphere, possibly due to solar flares from their host stars, we could narrow down in what positions in solar systems are more likely to harbor life.
“This system provides an opportunity to test the concept of the habitable zone outside of the Solar System,” co-investigator of a JWST program that will observe TRAPPIST-1h, Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, added to The Planetary Society.
“TRAPPIST-1 is so different from the Sun, and the planets orbit so close to it, that it’s likely that there will be many surprises in our study of this system, and our efforts to understand these surprises will push forward the boundaries of planetary science.”
More data and images from teams studying the system are expected soon. Until then, this is our best look at an extraordinary system and one of our best candidates for finding life.