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The ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 in the constellation of Aquarius.tif
TRAPPIST-1 is within the red circle in the constellation Aquarius
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Aquarius
Right ascension 23h 06m 29.283s[1]
Declination −05° 02′ 28.59″[1]
Evolutionary stage Main sequence
Spectral type M8V[2]
Apparent magnitude (V) 18.798±0.082[2]
Apparent magnitude (R) 16.466±0.065[2]
Apparent magnitude (I) 14.024±0.115[2]
Apparent magnitude (J) 11.354±0.022[1]
Apparent magnitude (H) 10.718±0.021[1]
Apparent magnitude (K) 10.296±0.023[1]
V−R color index 2.332
R−I color index 2.442
J−H color index 0.636
J−K color index 1.058
Radial velocity (Rv)−54±2[2] km/s
Proper motion (μ) RA: 922.1±1.8[2] mas/yr
Dec.: −471.9±1.8[2] mas/yr
Parallax (π)80.451 ± 0.12[3][4] mas
Distance40.54 ± 0.06 ly
(12.43 ± 0.02 pc)
Absolute magnitude (MV)18.4±0.1
Mass0.0898±0.0023[3] M
Radius0.1192±0.0013[5] R
Luminosity (bolometric)0.000553±0.000018[3] L
Luminosity (visual, LV)0.00000373[a] L
Surface gravity (log g)≈5.227[b][6] cgs
Temperature2566±26[5] K
Metallicity [Fe/H]0.04±0.08[7] dex
Rotation1.40±0.05 d-3.295 d
Rotational velocity (v sin i)6[8] km/s
Age7.6±2.2[9] Gyr
Other designations
2MASS J23062928–0502285, 2MASSI J2306292–050227, 2MASSW J2306292–050227, 2MUDC 12171
Database references
Exoplanet Archivedata
Extrasolar Planets

TRAPPIST-1, also designated 2MASS J23062928–0502285 (The planetary system is known as K2-112.[10]), is an ultra-cool red dwarf star in the constellation Aquarius. It has a mass of about 9% that of the Sun, a radius slightly larger than the planet Jupiter and a surface temperature of about 2560 K. It is about 39 light years (12 parsecs) from the Sun and is about 7.6±2.2 billion years old, making it older than the Solar System. The star was discovered in 2000.

In 2016 and 2017, observations with numerous space- and ground-based telescopes, including the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) telescope at La Silla Observatory, led to the discovery of initially three, then seven terrestrial planets around the star. The orbital periods - the time it takes for each planet to orbit the star - have precise numerical ratios of 8:5, 5:3, 3:2, 3:2, 4:3, and 3:2. This orbital resonance could have existed since the formation of the planetary system, and is predicted to lead to intense planet-planet interactions that could drive volcanic activity on the planets. The planets are likely to be tidally locked to TRAPPIST-1 and to thus always turn the same side to their host star.

Three or four of the planets (d, e, f, g) are hypothesized to be located within the habitable zone of the star and thus to have temperatures suitable to the presence of liquid water and thus the development of life. Whether they actually contain liquid water is a function of numerous properties of the planets including whether they have an atmosphere. There is no clear evidence that any of the planets has an atmosphere and it is unclear whether planets could hold onto atmospheres around TRAPPIST-1, since its radiation is expected to strip away large amounts of atmospheric gases. The low densities of the planets indicate they may consist of large amounts of volatile material.


Kepler image of TRAPPIST-1

TRAPPIST-1 is in the constellation Aquarius,[11] and very close to the celestial equator.[c][13] The name is a reference to the TRAPPIST[d] project that discovered the star;[19] other names for the star are 2MUCD 12171,[20] 2MASS J23062928–0502285, EPIC 246199087[14] and TRAPPIST-1a.[21] TRAPPIST-1 is a very close star,[22] 39.1 ± 1.3 light-years (12.0 ± 0.4 pc) away from the Solar System as measured by parallax,[e][24] and has a large proper motion.[f][22] Dwarf stars like TRAPPIST-1 are over ten times more common than Sun-like stars[26] and are also more likely to host small planets.[27] There is no evidence that TRAPPIST-1 is a binary star.[28]

TRAPPIST-1 is a late[g] M dwarf[h][31] with 0.0898±0.0023 times the Sun's[i] mass.[3] TRAPPIST-1 is only slightly larger than Jupiter and has a radius of 11.5% that of the Sun,[24] similar to brown dwarfs[j] and other low-mass stars.[35] TRAPPIST-1 has an unusually low density for its kind of star.[36] Its spectral type, which is a scheme to categorize stars by their temperature,[37] is M8.0±0.5.[24] Its luminosity is 0.000553±0.000018 times that of the Sun[3] and is mostly infrared radiation;[38] it is not variable[24] and there is no evidence for a solar cycle.[39] TRAPPIST-1 has an effective temperature[k] of 2,566 ± 26 K (2,292.8 ± 26.0 °C; 4,159.1 ± 46.8 °F).[5]

Stars like TRAPPIST-1 are so cool that clouds consisting of condensates and dust can form in their photosphere.[41] Patterns of TRAPPIST-1's radiation support the existence of dust, which is distributed evenly across the star's surface.[42] The faint radiation at short wavelengths that TRAPPIST-1 emits has been measured with the XMM-Newton satellite[43] and in later surveys, although with low precision.[44]

Rotation period and age[edit]

TRAPPIST-1 compared to the size of the Sun.

The rotation period of TRAPPIST-1 is uncertain.[36] It may rotate every 1.40±0.05 Earth days,[24] a typical period for M dwarfs.[35] Another possible rotation period is 3.295 Earth days[45] but that may constitute the rotation period of active regions rather than stellar rotation.[42] There are disagreements between rotational data obtained by the Spitzer space telescope and Kepler satellite that, as of 2020, remain unexplained.[46]

The ages of stars can be estimated using various techniques, which are not all suitable for every star. Based on a combination of techniques, an age of (7.6±2.2)×109 year has been established for TRAPPIST-1,[47] making it almost twice as old as the Solar System.[48] The life expectancy of a star like TRAPPIST-1 is hundreds to thousands of times longer than that of a Sun-like star[26] and longer than the present age of the Universe.[49]


Numerous photospheric features have been detected on TRAPPIST-1 and may constitute a source of error for measurements of the properties of its planets.[50] Possible faculae[l] have been observed by the Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes.[53] Their effect on the luminosity of TRAPPIST-1 may lead to the planets' densities being misestimated by about −8+7
percent,[54] and to incorrect estimates of their water content.[55] A correlation between bright spots and flare[m] activity has been found.[36] The mean intensity of TRAPPIST-1's magnetic field is about 600 G[57] although many of its properties cannot be directly measured.[58] This intense magnetic field is driven by chromospheric[n] activity[60] and may be capable of trapping coronal mass ejections; these are eruptions of coronal material to the outside of a star.[56][61]

Stars lose mass through the stellar wind.[62] Garraffo et al. 2017 computed the mass loss of TRAPPIST-1 to be about 3×10−14 solar masses per year,[63] which is about 1.5 times that of the Sun,[64] while Dong et al. 2018 simulated a mass loss of 4.1×10−15 solar masses per year.[63] The stellar wind properties of TRAPPIST-1 are not precisely determined.[65]

Planetary system[edit]

Relative sizes, densities, and illumination of the TRAPPIST-1 system compared to the inner planets of the Solar System.

Seven[o] planets orbit TRAPPIST-1, named TRAPPIST-1b, TRAPPIST-1c, TRAPPIST-1d, TRAPPIST-1e, TRAPPIST-1f, TRAPPIST-1g, and TRAPPIST-1h, [32] with each orbit taking a few to about 20 days.[67] They orbit their host star at distances of 1.7×106–8.9×106 kilometres (1.1×106–5.5×106 mi),[68] much closer to TRAPPIST-1 than Mercury is to the Sun,[69] making TRAPPIST-1 a very compact planetary system.[70] They are named in alphabetic order, according to their distance from TRAPPIST-1.[71] As of 2021 there is no evidence of an eighth planet around TRAPPIST-1, but its possible properties have been computed under the assumption that it is part of the resonance.[72] As of 2018 no comets have been detected around TRAPPIST-1.[73] Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope have found no evidence of a circumstellar dust disk,[74] implying that if it does exist it is of low mass. Most of the pre-planetary material was converted into planets.[75]

All orbits are coplanar[p] and highly circular, with minimal eccentricities,[70] and well-aligned with the spin axis ot TRAPPIST-1.[78] The planets all orbit on the same plane and, from the perspective of the Solar System, move past TRAPPIST-1 during their orbit[79] and frequently pass in front of each other.[80]

The TRAPPIST-1 planetary system[81][82][7][q]
(in order from star)
Mass Semimajor axis
Orbital period
Eccentricity[82] Inclination[7][84] Radius
b 1.3771±0.0593 M🜨 0.01154±0.0001 1.51088432±0.00000015 0.00622±0.00304 89.56±0.23° 1.116+0.014
c 1.3105±0.0453 M🜨 0.01580±0.00013 2.42179346±0.00000023 0.00654±0.00188 89.70±0.18° 1.097+0.014
d 0.3885±0.0074 M🜨 0.02227±0.00019 4.04978035±0.00000256 0.00837±0.00093 89.89+0.08
e 0.6932±0.0128 M🜨 0.02925±0.00025 6.09956479±0.00000178 0.00510±0.00058 89.736+0.053
f 1.0411±0.0155 M🜨 0.03849±0.00033 9.20659399±0.00000212 0.01007±0.00068 89.719+0.026
g 1.3238±0.0171 M🜨 0.04683±0.0004 12.3535557±0.00000341 0.00208±0.00058 89.721+0.019
h 0.3261±0.0186 M🜨 0.06189±0.00053 18.7672745±0.00001876 0.00567±0.00121 89.796±0.023° 0.775±0.014 R🜨

Size and composition[edit]

The TRAPPIST-1 system compared to the Solar System; the orbits of its seven planets would easily fit inside the orbit of Mercury[69]

The sizes of the planets has been constrained by observations to range from between Mars-sized to slightly larger than Earth.[85] Their radii are estimated to lie within the range of 75% to 150% that of Earth.[86] The ratio of their combined mass to the mass of the star TRAPPIST-1 is similar to similar ratios of the Solar System and of the moons that orbit its giant planets.[87]

The estimated densities of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are smaller than Earth's[88] which may imply that their cores are smaller than that of Earth, that they have large amounts of volatiles,[r] that their iron exists in an oxidized form rather than as a core[93] or that they are rocky planets with less iron than Earth.[94] However, a number of composition scenarios are possible considering the large uncertainties in the density,[95] and more research is needed to constrain their density.[96] The TRAPPIST-1 planets are expected to have similar compositions to each other[97] and to Earth.[98]


Artistic representation of TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets transiting their host star.

The planets are in orbital resonances,[s][100] with the durations of their orbits having ratios of 8:5, 5:3, 3:2, 3:2, 4:3, and 3:2 between each planet pair,[101] and with each triplet being in a Laplace resonance.[t][70] The resonances most likely developed in the early stage of the system and are thus long-lived.[103][u] The resonances make the planets go alternately ahead and behind in their orbits over the resonance periods, in greater amounts than simple estimates indicate, something which makes studies of the system easier[105] such as measuring the planets' masses when other techniques are not available.[106] The resonances and the proximity to their host star has led to the planetary system being compared to the Galilean moons of Jupiter;[79] another exoplanet system with a TRAPPIST-1-like long resonance is Kepler-223.[107]

The close distances of the planets to the host star TRAPPIST-1 results in strong tidal interactions,[108] stronger than for Earth.[109] These would be dominated by the star's contributions and would result in all planets having reached an equilibrium by now, with slow rotation of the planets and tidal locking.[108] Tidal locking occurs when the rotation of a planet and its star are synchronized.[110] This causes one half of the planet to perpetually face the star in a permanent day and the other half perpetually face away from the star in a permanent night,[111] and the slow rotation of such a planet may weaken its magnetic field if it has one.[112] However, the mutual interactions of the planets could prevent them from reaching a full synchronization by forcing periodic or episodic full rotations of the planets' surfaces with respect to the star - on timescales of several Earth years - , which would have important implications for the climate of the planets.[113] Other processes that can act to prevent tidal locking are triaxial torques of the planets, which would allow them to enter 3:2 resonances.[114]

The resonances continually excite the eccentricities of the TRAPPIST-1 planets, preventing their orbits from becoming fully circular. As a consequence,[115] the planets of TRAPPIST-1 are likely to undergo substantial tidal heating,[v] which would facilitate volcanism and outgassing in particular on the innermost planets. This heat source is likely dominant over the one provided by radioactive decay, although both are beset with substantial uncertainties and are considerably less than the incoming stellar radiation.[117] According to Luger et al. 2017, for the four innermost planets tidal heating is expected to be higher than the total inner heat flux on Earth.[118] Even if it does not significantly alter the climates of the planets, tidal heating could influence the temperatures of the night sides and cold traps where gases are expected to accumulate; likewise it would influence the properties of subsurface oceans[119] where volcanism and hydrothermal[w] flows could occur;[121] cause the development of subsurface magma oceans in some planets,[122] or induce volcanism which replenishes atmospheres.[123] Intense tides could fracture the planets' crusts, inducing earthquakes even if they are not sufficiently strong to trigger the onset of plate tectonics.[124] The TRAPPIST-1 planets may have substantial seismic activity due to the tidal effects.[125]

Skies and impact of stellar light[edit]

Because TRAPPIST-1 radiates mostly infrared radiation, its planets would be dark to the human eye, with Amaury H.M.J Triaud, one of their co-discoverers, suggesting that the skies would never be brighter than Earth's sky at sunset[126] and only a little brighter than a night with a full moon. Ignoring atmospheric effects, illumination would be orange-red.[127] All the planets would be visible from each other and would in many cases appear larger than the Moon in the sky of Earth[69] but TRAPPIST-1e, f and g at least cannot experience any total eclipses.[71]

Because of the higher wavelength of TRAPPIST-1's radiation compared to that of the Sun, it is more effectively absorbed by water and carbon dioxide and less effectively scattered[128] or reflected by ice.[x][130] Consequently, the same amount of radiation results in a warmer planet compared to a Sun-like irradiation[128] with more radiation being absorbed at the top of an atmosphere rather than the bottom.[131]

Habitable zone[edit]

Three or four[43] planets – e, f, and g[132] or d, e, and f – are located inside the habitable zone.[60][y] As of 2017 this is the largest known number of planets within the habitable zone of a star or star system,[134] however, whether liquid water actually occurs on any of the planets would depend on several other factors, notably, the albedo[z] and the presence or absence of a strong greenhouse effect on each planet.[136] Hence surface conditions are difficult to constrain without better knowledge of the planets' atmospheres.[137] Additionally, a tidally locked planet might not necessarily freeze over entirely if it receives too little radiation from its star, since the "day" side could be heated sufficiently to halt the progress of a glaciation.[138]

Other factors are the presence of oceans and vegetation,[139] the reflective properties of the land surface and the configuration of continents and oceans,[140] cloud[141] and sea ice dynamics etc.[142] Inclusion of the effects of volcanic activity may extend the habitable zone of TRAPPIST-1 to TRAPPIST-1h.[143]

Intense extreme ultraviolet and X-rays[144] can make water escape from planets, by splitting it into hydrogen along with oxygen gas, and heating the upper atmosphere until they escape from the planet. This is particularly important early in the star's history, when radiation was more intense and could have heated every planet's water to the boiling point.[130] This process is believed to have removed the water from Venus.[145] In the case of TRAPPIST-1, different studies with different assumptions on the kinetics, energetics and XUV emissions have come to different conclusions on whether any TRAPPIST-1 planet can retain substantial amounts of water. Additionally, given that the planets are most likely tidally locked water could become trapped on their night side and unavailable to support life, unless atmospheric heat transport[146] or tidal heating are intense enough melt the ice.[147]


No moons with a size comparable to Earth's have been detected around TRAPPIST-1,[148] and moons are unlikely[aa][ab] in such a densely packed planetary system as they would tend to be either torn apart by their planet's gravity after going inside the planet's Roche limit,[151] or else stripped from the planet by going outside of the planet's Hill radius.[152]

Magnetic and radiative effects of TRAPPIST-1[edit]

The TRAPPIST-1 planets are expected to be within the Alfvén surface of their host star;[153] the Alfvén surface is the area around the star within which any planet would directly magnetically interact with the corona of the star, possibly destabilizing any atmosphere the planet has.[154] Stellar energetic particles would not create a substantial radiation hazard for organisms on TRAPPIST-1 planets, if atmospheres reach pressures of about bar.[155] However, estimates of radiation fluxes have considerable uncertainties owing to the lack of knowledge about the structure of the magnetic field of TRAPPIST-1.[156]

Induction heating from electrical and magnetic fields of TRAPPIST-1 may occur on its planets[ac][158] but has no substantial contribution to their energy balance.[117] It could be sufficient to melt the mantles of the four innermost planets, in whole or in part,[157] increasing the degassing[ad] from the mantle and facilitating the establishment of atmospheres around the planets.[160]

Formation history[edit]

The TRAPPIST-1 planets most likely formed at larger distances from the star and migrated inward,[161] although they may have also formed where they currently are.[162] Ormel et al. 2017 proposed that the TRAPPIST-1 planets formed when a streaming instability[ae] at the water-ice line gave rise to precursor bodies, which accumulated additional fragments and migrated inward, eventually giving rise to the planets. The distribution of the fragments would control the Earth-like mass the planets ended up having, and the planets would consist of c. 10% water, which is consistent with inference from observations.[164] Resonant chains like these of TRAPPIST-1 usually become unstable when the gas disk that gave rise to them dissipates, but in this case they remained in the resonance.[165] The resonance may have either been present from the start and was preserved when the planets moved inward simultaneously,[166] or it might have formed later, when inward migrating planets accumulated at the outer edge of the gas disk and interacted with each other.[162] Inward migrating planets would contain substantial amounts of water, too much for it to escape completely, whereas planets that formed in their current location would most likely lose it all.[167][168] The orbital distance of the innermost planet TRAPPIST-1b is consistent with (according to Flock et al. 2019) the expected radius of an inward moving planet around a star that was one order of magnitude brighter in the past[169] and with the cavity in the pre-planet disk created by TRAPPIST-1's magnetic field.[170] Alternatively, TRAPPIST-1h may have formed in its current location or close to it.[171]

The presence of additional bodies and planetesimals early in the system's history would have destabilized the TRAPPIST-1 resonance if the bodies were massive enough.[172] Thus, Raymond et al. 2021 concluded that the TRAPPIST-1 planets assembled in 1-2 million years and once they were complete, only little additional mass was accreted.[173] This would limit any late delivery of water to the planets[174] and also implies that the planets cleared the neighbourhood[af] of any additional material.[175] The lack of giant impacts would also help the planets preserve their volatile inventory.[176]

Potential atmospheres of the planets[edit]

As of 2020, there is no definitive evidence that any of the TRAPPIST-1 planets has an atmosphere.[ag][177] For a number of reasons, existing telescopes and observations cannot be used to infer whether any of the planets around TRAPPIST-1 have an atmosphere or its composition.[161] Several studies have simulated how various atmospheric scenarios would look like to satellite observations, and the chemical processes underpinning these atmospheric compositions.[178]

The existence of atmospheres around TRAPPIST-1 planets is a function of the balance between the decay of such an atmosphere, the amount of atmosphere initially present and the rate at which it is reconstituted by impact events,[70] accretion from a protoplanetary disk[179] and outgassing/volcanic activity.[123] Impact events would be particularly important in the outer planets, as impact events can both add and remove volatiles from the planets; in the outermost planets addition is likely dominant.[103][180] The properties of TRAPPIST-1 are unfavourable to the continued existence of atmospheres around its planets;[181] on the other hand the formation conditions of the planets would give them large initial volatile inventories,[161] including oceans over hundred times larger than Earth's.[182] The outer planets are more likely to have atmospheres than the inner ones.[161]

If the planets are tidally locked to TRAPPIST-1 and thus one side of their surface always faces away from the star, it can cool down sufficiently for any atmosphere to freeze out on the night side.[183] This frozen-out atmosphere could be recycled through glacier-like flow of the frozen-out material to the dayside, helped by heating (tidal or geothermal) from below, or could be stirred by impact events. These processes could allow an atmosphere to persist.[184] In the case of a carbon dioxide atmosphere, the burial of carbon dioxide ice under water ice, driven by the density of carbon dioxide ice, the formation of carbon dioxide-water compounds named clathrates[ah] and a potential runaway feedback loop between ice melting and evaporation and the greenhouse effect additionally complicate matters.[186]

Numerical modelling and observations have been used to constrain the properties of hypothetical atmospheres around TRAPPIST-1 planets:[161]

  • Theoretical calculations[187] and observations have ruled out that the TRAPPIST-1 planets have hydrogen-[188][189] or helium-rich atmospheres.[190] Hydrogen-rich exospheres[ai] may be detectable still[192] but have not been reliably detected[193] except perhaps for TRAPPIST-1b and 1c by Bourrier et al. 2017.[171][21]
  • Water-dominated atmospheres, while suggested by some density estimates, are improbable for the TRAPPIST-1 planets as they are expected to be unstable under the conditions experienced around TRAPPIST-1, especially early in the star's life.[194] The spectral properties of the planets also imply that they do not have a clear water-rich atmosphere.[195]
  • Oxygen-dominated atmospheres can form when radiation splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and the former escapes due to its lighter mass. The existence of such an atmosphere and its mass are a function of the initial water mass, by whether the oxygen is dragged out of the atmosphere by escaping hydrogen and by the state of the planet's surface; a partially molten surface could absorb large quantities of oxygen, sufficient to remove an atmosphere.[196]
  • Atmospheres formed by ammonia and/or methane are unstable around TRAPPIST-1, as they are destroyed by the radiation of the star at a sufficient rate to quickly remove an atmosphere. Biogenic ammonia or methane production would have to be considerably larger than on Earth to sustain such an atmosphere. It is however possible that the development of organic hazes from ammonia/methane photolysis could shield the remaining molecules.[197] Ducrot et al. 2020 interpreted observational data as implying that methane-dominated atmospheres are unlikely around TRAPPIST-1 planets.[198]
  • Nitrogen-dominated atmospheres are particularly unstable with respect of atmospheric escape, especially on the innermost planets, although the presence of carbon dioxide may slow the evaporation.[199] Unless the TRAPPIST-1 planets initially contained far more nitrogen than Earth, they are unlikely to still have such atmospheres.[200]
  • Carbon dioxide-dominated atmospheres only slowly escape, as carbon dioxide effectively radiates away energy and thus does not readily reach escape velocity; however, on a tidally locked planet it can freeze out on the nightside especially if there aren't any other gases in the atmosphere. Radiative decomposition of carbon dioxide could yield substantial amounts of oxygen, carbon monoxide[201] and ozone.[202]

Inferences about the climates of each planet have been made. If they have an atmosphere, the amount of precipitation, its form and where it occurs would be determined by the presence and position of mountains and oceans and the rotation period.[203] The planets that are in the habitable zone are expected to have a global Rossby number larger than 1, which would make their atmospheres "tropical" with only small temperature gradients.[204]

Whether greenhouse gases could accumulate on the outer TRAPPIST-1 planets in sufficient quantities to warm them to the melting point of water is controversial. On a tidally locked planet, carbon dioxide could freeze and precipitate on the night side and ammonia and methane would be destroyed by the XUV radiation from TRAPPIST-1.[60] Carbon dioxide freezing-out can occur only on the outermost planets unless special conditions are met, and other volatiles do not freeze out.[205]

Detecting atmospheres around the TRAPPIST-1 planets may be possible.[206] Because the exoplanet and the visibility of its atmosphere scale with the inverse square of the radius of its host star, the atmospheres of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets could be visualized in the future.[207] Detecting individual components of the atmospheres - in particular carbon dioxide, ozone and water -[208] would also be possible, although different components would require different conditions and different numbers of transits.[209] A contamination of the atmospheric signals through patterns in the stellar photosphere is an additional problem.[46]


The emission of XUV radiation by a star is important for the stability of the atmospheres of its planets, their composition and the habitability of their surface. M dwarfs like TRAPPIST-1 emit large amounts of XUV radiation;[205] in fact, TRAPPIST-1 emits amounts of XUV radiation comparable to that of the Sun[aj] and has been emitting radiation for much longer,[211] and since TRAPPIST-1's planets are much closer to their star than the Sun's, they receive a much more intense irradiation.[38] The XUV radiation powers the ongoing removal of atmospheres - atmospheric escape - from planets,[70] which has been observed on gas giants.[212] The process of escape has been mainly modelled in the context of hydrogen-rich atmospheres, while little quantitative research has been done on other compositions such as water or carbon dioxide.[189]

TRAPPIST-1 is moderately[24] to highly active and this may be an additional hurdle for atmospheres and water to persist on the planets:[67]

  • M dwarfs have intense flares;[205] TRAPPIST-1 has about 0.38 flares per day[60] and 4.2+1.9
    superflares[ak] per year.[214] While such flares would have only small impacts on atmospheric temperatures, they affect the stability and chemistry of the atmospheres substantially.[70] Samara, Patsourakos and Georgoulis 2021 argued that the TRAPPIST-1 planets are unlikely to be able to hold on atmospheres against coronal mass ejections.[215]
  • The stellar wind from TRAPPIST-1 has a pressure a thousand times larger than that from the Sun, which could destabilize the atmospheres of the TRAPPIST-1 planets[216] up to planet f, as the pressure would push the wind deep into their atmospheres;[217] this would facilitate the evaporation of the atmospheres[70] and the loss of water.[218] Stellar wind-driven escape in the Solar System is largely independent on planetary properties such as mass[219] and could remove the atmospheres of TRAPPIST-1 planets in a timescale of 100–10,000 million years.[220]
  • Ohmic heating[al] of the atmosphere of TRAPPIST-1e, f, and g amounts to 5-15 times the XUV radiation and if the heat is effectively absorbed, could destabilize the atmospheres.[222]

The history of the star also influences the atmospheres of its planets.[223] Initially after its formation, TRAPPIST-1 would have been in a pre-main sequence[am] state, which may have lasted for hundreds of millions[205] and up to two billion years.[46] During this state, it would have been considerably brighter than today and the intense irradiation would have impacted the atmospheres of surrounding planets, vaporizing all common volatiles such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and water.[225] Thus, all planets of the system would have been heated to a runaway greenhouse[an] for at least part of their existence.[205] The XUV emissions would have been even higher during the pre-main sequence stage as well.[70]

List of planets[edit]

Other characteristics
(in order from star)
Stellar flux[81]
(equilibrium, assumes null Bond albedo)
Surface gravity[81]
(wrt planet b)
(wrt next planet inwards)
b 4.153±0.16 397.6 ± 3.8 K (124.45 ± 3.80 °C; 256.01 ± 6.84 °F)
1,400 K (1,130 °C; 2,060 °F) (atmosphere)
750–1,500 K (477–1,227 °C; 890–2,240 °F) (surface)[82]
1.102±0.052 1:1 1:1
c 2.214±0.085 339.7 ± 3.3 K (66.55 ± 3.30 °C; 151.79 ± 5.94 °F) 1.086±0.043 5:8 5:8
d 1.115±0.043 286.2 ± 2.8 K (13.05 ± 2.80 °C; 55.49 ± 5.04 °F) 0.624±0.019 3:8 3:5
e 0.646±0.025 249.7 ± 2.4 K (−23.45 ± 2.40 °C; −10.21 ± 4.32 °F) 0.817±0.024 1:4 2:3
f 0.373±0.014 217.7 ± 2.1 K (−55.45 ± 2.10 °C; −67.81 ± 3.78 °F) 0.851±0.024 1:6 2:3
g 0.252±0.0097 197.3 ± 1.9 K (−75.85 ± 1.90 °C; −104.53 ± 3.42 °F) 1.035±0.026 1:8 3:4
h 0.144±0.0055 171.7 ± 1.7 K (−101.45 ± 1.70 °C; −150.61 ± 3.06 °F) 0.570±0.038 1:12 2:3
The TRAPPIST-1 system with sizes and distances to scale, compared with the Moon and Earth


TRAPPIST-1b has a semi-major axis of 0.0115 AU[226][ao] and orbits its star every 1.51 d. It is also close enough to TRAPPIST-1 to be tidally locked.[ap] Trappist-1b is not within the habitable zone;[229] it receives about 4 times as much irradiation as Earth [229] and thus either was or still is a runaway greenhouse.[60] It could have a thick atmosphere like Venus or lack one altogether like Mercury [230] and, based on fluid dynamical arguments, is only slightly more likely than Earth to lack surface temperature gradients.[231][232] Based on numerous climate models, the planet would have been desiccated by TRAPPIST-1's stellar wind and radiation[217][201] although density estimates of the planet, if confirmed, demonstrate that it is not dense enough to consist solely of rock.[194] Water could persist only in specific settings on the planet.[233] Based on the Lyman-alpha radiation emissions, TRAPPIST-1b may be losing hydrogen at a rate of 4.6×107 g/s.[234] It is also a candidate magma ocean planet.[235]


TRAPPIST-1c has a semi-major axis of 0.0158 AU[226] and orbits its star every 2.42 d. It is close enough to TRAPPIST-1 to be tidally locked[aq][229] and could have a thick Venus-like atmosphere or lack one altogether.[230] TRAPPIST-1c is also not within the habitable zone[229] as it receives about 2 times as much irradiation as Earth[232] and thus either was or still is a runaway greenhouse.[60] Based on numerous climate models, the planet would have been desiccated by TRAPPIST-1's stellar wind and radiation.[217] TRAPPIST-1c could harbor water only in specific settings on its surface[233] and it may be losing hydrogen at a rate of 1.4×107 g/s,[234] however, 2017 observations showed no escaping hydrogen.[236]


TRAPPIST-1d has a semi-major axis of 0.022 AU and an orbital period of 4.05 Earth days, it therefore orbits close enough to its star to also be tidally locked.[226][ar] It is more massive than the planet Mars but is less dense.[237] Based on fluid dynamical arguments, TRAPPIST-1d is expected to have only weak temperature gradients on its surface if it's tidally locked,[231] and may have significantly different stratospheric dynamics from Earth.[238] Based on numerous climate models, the planet may[217] or may not have been desiccated by TRAPPIST-1's stellar wind and radiation[217] although density estimates of the planet, if confirmed, demonstrate that it is not dense enough to consist solely of rock.[194] The current state of TRAPPIST-1d depends on its rotation and climatic factors like cloud feedbacks;[230] it may currently be in a runaway greenhouse state.[225] Water could most likely persist only in specific settings on the planet.[233]


TRAPPIST-1e has a semi-major axis of 0.029 AU[226] and is expected to have been in the habitable zone for a long time, assuming only orbital perturbations.[239] Based on numerous climate models, the planet is the most likely one to have retained its water,[217] and the one most likely to have it in liquid form for many different climate states. A dedicated climate model project called TRAPPIST-1 Habitable Atmosphere Intercomparison (THAI) has been launched to study potential climate states of this planet.[240] Based on the Lyman-alpha radiation emissions, TRAPPIST-1e may be losing hydrogen at a rate of 0.6×107 g/s.[234]

TRAPPIST-1e is the TRAPPIST-1 planet most likely to have water[80] and has been classified as being the second-most similar exoplanet system to Earth in the Earth Similarity Index,[as] only behind Proxima Centauri b[at][243] which is in a comparable position within the habitable zone.[244] It also has an Earth-like density.[85] TRAPPIST-1e could have kept up to several Earth ocean masses of water.[60] Moderate quantities of carbon dioxide could warm TRAPPIST-1e up to temperatures adequate for liquid water to exist.[201] Models of tidal effects on TRAPPIST-1e have been created.[245]


TRAPPIST-1f has a semi-major axis of 0.038 AU[226] and is expected to have been in the habitable zone for a long time, assuming only orbital perturbations.[239] It is likely too far away from its host star to sustain liquid water, instead forming a snowball[au][217] but moderate quantities of carbon dioxide could warm TRAPPIST-1f up to temperatures adequate for liquid water to exist.[233] TRAPPIST-1f could have kept up to several Earth ocean masses of water[60] and may consist of c. 50% water by mass;[247] TRAPPIST-1f may be an ocean planet.[188]


TRAPPIST-1g has a semi-major axis of 0.047 AU.[226] It is likely too far away from its host star to sustain liquid water, instead forming a snowball.[217] However, either moderate quantities of carbon dioxide[233] or internal heat from radioactive decay and tidal heating may warm its surface to above the melting point of water.[248] TRAPPIST-1g could have kept up to several Earth ocean masses of water[60] and density estimates of the planet,[av] if confirmed, demonstrate that it is not dense enough to consist solely of rock.[194]


TRAPPIST-1h has a semi-major axis of 0.062 AU.[226] It is likely[aw] too far away from its host star to sustain liquid water, instead forming a snowball[217] or it may resemble Titan and have a methane/nitrogen atmosphere.[218] However, a hydrogen greenhouse effect[250] or internal heat from radioactive decay and tidal heating may warm its surface to above the melting point of water.[248] TRAPPIST-1h could have kept up to several Earth ocean masses of water.[60]


Detecting life at TRAPPIST-1 may be possible, and the star is considered a promising site for such a detection.[67] Theoretical estimates have indicated that, on the basis of the stability of the atmosphere, the probability of the most favourable planet, TRAPPIST-1e, to be actually inhabited is considerably less than that of Earth.[251]

  • Due to the multiple interacting planets, TRAPPIST-1 planets are expected to feature intense tides.[252] If oceans are present, the tides could alternately flooding and drying coastal landscapes, triggering chemical reactions conducive to the development of life,[253] favour the evolution of biological rhythms such as the day-night cycle which otherwise would not develop in a tidally locked planet without a day-night cycle,[254] mix oceans and supply and redistribute nutrients[255] and stimulate periodic expansions of marine organisms such as red tides on Earth.[256]
  • TRAPPIST-1 may not produce sufficient quantities of radiation suitable for photosynthesis to support a biosphere like on Earth.[257][258][259] Mullan and Bais 2018 proposed that radiation from flares may increase the photosynthetic potential of TRAPPIST-1[260] but Lingam and Loeb 2019 indicated that the photosynthesis potential would still be small.[261]
  • In light of the small distances between the planets of TRAPPIST-1, it is possible that microorganisms ripped from one planet while encased in rocks may arrive at another planet while still viable inside the rock, allowing life to spread between the planets if it originates on one.[262]
  • Too much UV radiation from a star can sterilize the surface[90][132] but too little may not allow the formation of chemical compounds that give rise to life,[21][263] and inadequate production of hydroxyl radicals by a weak stellar UV emission may allow gases such as carbon monoxide that are toxic to higher life to accumulate in the atmospheres of TRAPPIST-1 planets.[264] The range of possibilities go from UV fluxes from TRAPPIST-1 unlikely to be much larger than these of early Earth even in the case that TRAPPIST-1's emissions of UV radiation are high,[265] to sufficient to sterilize the planets if they do not have a protective atmosphere.[266] As of 2020 it is unclear which effect would predominate around TRAPPIST-1[46] although observations with the Kepler space telescope and the Evryscope telescopes indicate that the UV flux may be insufficient for both sterilization and the formation of life.[214]
  • The outer planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system could feature subsurface oceans, similar to Enceladus and Europa in the Solar System.[267] Chemolithotrophy, the growth of organisms based on non-organic reduced compounds,[268] could sustain life in such oceans.[121]
  • Very deep oceans may be inimical to the development of life.[269]

A search for technosignatures[ax] from the TRAPPIST-1 system in 2017 found only signals coming from Earth.[270] In less than two millennia from the viewpoint of TRAPPIST-1 Earth will be transiting in front of the Sun, which would make it possible to detect life on Earth from TRAPPIST-1.[271]

Research history and reception[edit]

TRAPPIST-1 was initially discovered in 2000, during a survey of Two Micron All-Sky Survey data for the identification of close by ultra-cold dwarf stars.[272][273] Its planetary system was discovered by a team led by Michaël Gillon, a Belgian astronomer[15] of the University of Liege,[11] in 2016,[69] during observations made from the La Silla Observatory, Chile,[67] [274] using the TRAPPIST telescope. Anomalies in the light curves[ay] measured by the telescope[az] in 2015 led to the discovery of TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c and a third planet, which the Spitzer Space Telescope[ba] revealed to be multiple planets in 2016.[14] Research since then has confirmed the existence of at least seven planets in the system,[277] with their orbits constrained by the Spitzer and Kepler telescopes.[88] The discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planets is often incorrectly attributed to NASA, but in actuality the TRAPPIST project that led to their discovery involved funding from both NASA and the European Research Council of the European Union.[278]

Public reaction and cultural impact[edit]

The discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planets had a major impact, drawing widespread attention in social media, streaming TV and websites[bb][280] and it received widespread coverage by major newspapers of the world.[281][282][bc] The attention directed at the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planets has been cited as evidence that exoplanet research attracts public interest.[284]

The dynamics of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system have been represented as music, such as Tim Pyle's Trappist Transits,[285] In Isolation's single Trappist-1 (A Space Anthem)[286] and Leah Asher's piano work TRAPPIST-1.[287] The alleged discovery of an SOS signal from TRAPPIST-1 was an April Fools prank by the High Energy Stereoscopic System in Namibia.[288] A digital artwork[bd] of the TRAPPIST-1 system named TRAPPIST-1 Planetary System as seen from Space was created in 2018 by Aldo Spadoni.[289]

Exoplanets discovered by science often feature in science fiction works. Books, comics and video games have featured the TRAPPIST-1 system, the earliest being The Terminator, a short story by the Swiss author Laurence Suhner published in the same academic journal that announced the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system.[290] At least one conference has been set up to recognize works of fiction featuring TRAPPIST-1.[291] The planets have been used as settings for science education competitions[292] and websites offering TRAPPIST-1-like planets as settings of virtual reality simulations exist,[293] such as the "Exoplanet Travel Bureau" of NASA.[294]

Scientific importance[edit]

Owing to its relative closeness to the Solar System, the small size of the star TRAPPIST-1 and the fact that, from Earth's perspective, the planets frequently pass in front of the star, the TRAPPIST-1 planets are the most easily studied habitable planets outside of the Solar System.[277] Future observations with observatories and ground-based facilities may allow future insights in the properties, such as density, atmospheres and biosignatures[be] of TRAPPIST-1 planets;[296][297] they are considered an important observation target for the James Webb Space Telescope[177][bf] and other telescopes under construction.[139]

Together with the discovery of Proxima Centauri b, the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planets and the fact that about three of TRAPPIST-1's planets are within its habitable zone has led to an upswing of studies on planetary habitability[299] and are considered prototypical for the research on the habitability of M dwarfs.[300] TRAPPIST-1 has drawn intense scientific interest,[177] and the star has been subject of detailed studies, including studies assessing the habitability of each planet,[98] including the possible effects of vegetation and whether an ocean could be detected by using starlight reflected off its surface.[301]

The role that European Union funding played in the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 has been cited as an example of the importance of European Union projects,[278] and the involvement of a Moroccan observatory as an indication of the role of the Arab world in science. The original discoverers were affiliated with universities spanning Africa, Europe and North America[302] and the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 is considered to be an example of the importance of cooperation among multiple observatories.[303] It is also one of the major astronomical discoveries from Chilean observatories.[304]


TRAPPIST-1 is too far away from Earth to be reached by humans with current or expected technology. [305] Even a theoretical interstellar probe travelling at the speed of light would need almost 40 years to reach the star. The speculative Breakthrough Starshot proposal for sending small laser-accelerated unmanned probes would require around two centuries to reach TRAPPIST-1.[306][bg] Spacecraft mission designs using present-day rockets and gravity slingshots would need hundreds of thousands of years to reach TRAPPIST-1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taking the absolute visual magnitude of TRAPPIST-1 and the absolute visual magnitude of the Sun , the visual luminosity can be calculated by
  2. ^ The surface gravity is calculated directly from Newton's law of universal gravitation, which gives the formula , where M is the mass of the object, r is its radius, and G is the gravitational constant. In this case, a log g of ≈5.227 indicates a surface gravity around 172 times stronger than Earth's.
  3. ^ The celestial equator is the equator's projection on the sky.[12]
  4. ^ The TRAPPIST telescope in La Silla - the name stands for "TRansiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope"[14] and also refers to Trappist beer[15] - is a 60 centimetres (24 in) telescope[14] intended to be a prototype for the SPECULOOS project;[16] SPECULOOS stands for "Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra‐cOOl Stars" and aims to identify planets around close, cold stars.[17] TRAPPIST is used to find exoplanets, and is preferentially employed on stars colder than 3,000 K (2,730 °C; 4,940 °F).[18]
  5. ^ The parallax is the position of a celestial object with respect to other celestial objects for a given position of Earth. It can be used to infer the distance of the object from Earth.[23]
  6. ^ The movement of a stellar body with respect to the sky, rather than the movement of the body itself.[25]
  7. ^ Late-type is a term used to refer to a cold star.[29]
  8. ^ M dwarfs, also known as red dwarfs, are the smallest and coldest stars. In the Milky Way, they are the most numerous type of star.[30]
  9. ^ Equivalent to approximately 94±2.4 times as massive as Jupiter.
  10. ^ A brown dwarf is a star too small to begin nuclear fusion.[32] TRAPPIST-1 has only barely sufficient mass to allow nuclear fusion to take place.[33][34]
  11. ^ The effective temperature is the temperature a black body that emits the same amount of radiation would have.[40]
  12. ^ On the Sun, faculae are bright spots[51] but some of TRAPPIST-1's bright spots may be too large to count as faculae.[52]
  13. ^ Flares are presumably magnetic phenomena during which for minutes and hours parts of the star emit more radiation than usual.[56]
  14. ^ The chromosphere is an outer layer of a star.[59]
  15. ^ Kepler-90 has even more exoplanets, eight in total.[66]
  16. ^ Meaning that their orbits are flat;[76] the inclinations are less than 1°,[77] making TRAPPIST-1 the flattest planetary system in the NASA Exoplanet Archive.[76]
  17. ^ As of 2018 their masses are relatively less well constrained than their radii.[83]
  18. ^ The densities are too low for a pure magnesium silicate composition, requiring lower-density molecular species to be present,[89] such as water.[90] Planets b, d, f, g and h are expected to contain large quantities of volatile compounds.[91] The planets may thus consist of large amounts of atmospheres, ice and oceans.[92]
  19. ^ An orbital resonance is the situation where two bodies orbiting around the same object have orbital periods at or close to some simple ratio, and that are held in that simple ratio by gravitational interactions.[99]
  20. ^ A Laplace resonance is an orbital resonance that consists of three bodies, similar to the Galilean moons Europa, Ganymede and Io around Jupiter.[102]
  21. ^ Initial simulation suggested that the resonances would become unstable for many plausible initial conditions.[104]
  22. ^ Tidal heating is heating induced by tides, which deform planets and heat it in the process. This is particularly likely in systems with more than one planet when the planets interact with each other.[116]
  23. ^ Hydrothermal vents are hot springs that occur underwater, and are hypothesized to be places where life could originate.[120]
  24. ^ However, the development of highly reflective hydrohalite ice may negate this effect.[129]
  25. ^ The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for the existence of liquid water; it is also called "the Goldilocks zone".[133][60]
  26. ^ The albedo is the reflectivity of the surface of a planet.[135]
  27. ^ Although not impossible.[149]
  28. ^ TRAPPIST-1 does appear in an analysis of potential exomoon hosts but does not appear in the list of habitable zone exoplanets that could host a moon for a substantial amount of time.[150]
  29. ^ Induction heating is a form of heat generation that is caused by time-varying magnetic fields.[157]
  30. ^ Degassing is the release of gases, which can end up forming an atmosphere, from the mantle or magma.[159]
  31. ^ A streaming instability is a process where interactions between gas and solid particles cause the latter to clump together in filaments. These filaments can give rise to the precursor bodies of planets.[163]
  32. ^ According to the International Astronomical Union criteria, a body has to clear its neighbourhood to qualify as a planet.[175]
  33. ^ Bourrier et al. 2017 interpreted UV absorption data from the Hubble Space Telescope as implying that the outer TRAPPIST-1 planets still have an atmosphere.[21]
  34. ^ A clathrate is a chemical compound where one compound, e.g carbon dioxide, is trapped within a "cage"-like assembly of molecules from another compound, e.g water.[185]
  35. ^ The exosphere is the region of an atmosphere where density is so low that atoms or molecules no longer collide. It is formed by atmospheric escape and the presence of a hydrogen-rich exosphere implies the presence of water.[191]
  36. ^ Either as much as the Sun at solar minimum,[21] the same amount[46] or more than the Sun.[210]
  37. ^ Flares with an energy of over 10×1033 ergs (1.0×1027 J).[213]
  38. ^ Ohmic heating takes place when electrical currents excited by the stellar wind flow through parts of the atmosphere, heating it.[221]
  39. ^ The main sequence is the main and longest stage of a star's lifespan, when it is fusing hydrogen.[224]
  40. ^ In a runaway greenhouse, all water on a planet is in the form of vapour.[225]
  41. ^ AU, Astronomical Unit, is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun.[227]
  42. ^ With a simulated tidal stress 58495 times that of Earth, it is calculated to become tidally locked within 46 years.[228]
  43. ^ With a simulated tidal stress 22735 times that of Earth, it is calculated to become tidally locked within 680 years.[228]
  44. ^ With a simulated tidal stress 8117 times that of Earth, it is calculated to become tidally locked within 4070 years.[228]
  45. ^ The Earth Similarity Index is a ranking of planets by their similarity to Earth that was developed by Schulze-Makuch et al. 2011.[241]
  46. ^ The exoplanet Proxima Centauri b resides in the habitable zone of the nearest star to the Solar System,[242]
  47. ^ A snowball in the context of planets is a climate where an entire planet is glaciated.[246]
  48. ^ It may consist of c. 50% water by weight.[247]
  49. ^ Large quantities of carbon dioxide, as well as hydrogen or methane, would be needed to warm TRAPPIST-1h up to temperatures adequate for liquid water to exist.[249]
  50. ^ Technosignatures are signals that indicate the existence of past or present technology.[270]
  51. ^ When a planet moves in front of its star, it absorbs part of the star's radiation, which can be noticed by telescopes.[133]
  52. ^ Observations by the Himalayan Chandra Telescope, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope and Very Large Telescope complemented the findings by the TRAPPIST telescope.[24]
  53. ^ As well as the ground-based TRAPPIST and TRAPPIST-North in the Oukaïmeden Observatory of Morocco, the South African Astronomical Observatory in South Africa and the Liverpool Telescopes and William Herschel Telescopes, both in Spain.[275] The observations of TRAPPIST-1 are considered among the most important research findings of the Spitzer Space Telescope.[276]
  54. ^ The discovery was sometimes the top news.[279] As of 2017, the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 led to the largest single-day web traffic to the NASA website.[280]
  55. ^ NASA started a public campaign on Twitter to find names for the planets, which drew numerous serious and less serious responses. However, the names of the planets will be decided by the International Astronomical Union.[283]
  56. ^ More precisely a giclée.[289]
  57. ^ Biosignatures are properties of a planet that can be detected from far away and suggest the existence of life, such as atmospheric gases that are produced by biological processes.[295]
  58. ^ Which however may not have time to reliably detect certain biosignatures.[298]
  59. ^ There is also discussion on how to communicate with any probe sent to TRAPPIST-1.[307]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 23h 06m 29.383s, −05° 02′ 28.59″