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Posts Tagged ‘extraterrestrial life

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.

Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post “A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!”.

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.

Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at “Model Planets”, comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.

The Planetary Society Blog’s Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams’ “Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1” has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post “Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1” notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in “We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back” about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in “The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets”, hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • James Bow offers his prescriptions for a fix to thje issues of guaranteed minimum income.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that, from the perspective of long-term habitability of exoplanets, stars slightly more massive than the sun are preferable.
  • Language Hat introduces the toponym of the “triplex confinium”, here the point where Serbia meets Romania and Hungary.
  • Language Log considers Trump’s particular rhetorical style, in relation to his claim of something terrible happening in Sweden: What is he actually hinting at?
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that talk of a Turkish-style deep state in the United States is a fundamental misreading of the American situation that plays into Trump’s hands.
  • The LRB Blog looks at street-level community organization in Baltimore, suggesting that it points the way to the future of anti-Trump resistance.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on Noah Webster’s preference for Americans.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw considers the nature of Chinese-Australian trade in agricultural goods.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that North American integration would continue even with the end of NAFTA, given the advantageous nature of American trade with Mexico.
  • Savage Minds talks about teaching in the era of Trump.
  • Supernova Condensate identifies eight important things about uranium that people should know.
  • Torontoist shares a photo from yesterday’s drag queen reading to children at Glad Day.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russia’s partial recognition of the Donbas republics and the handing out of Russian passports to their citizens, notes the potential for anti-Lukashenka protests in Belarus to trigger a Russian intervention in its sphere of influence and looks at minority languages threatened by Russian.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at Southern Hemisphere flowers in his California garden and notes horsetails.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams notes the sad news that, because of the destructive way in which the stellar activity of young red dwarfs interacts with oxygen molecules in exoplanet atmospheres, Proxima Centauri b is likely not Earth-like.
  • Crooked Timber takes issue with the idea of Haidt that conservatives are uniquely interested in the idea of purity.
  • D-Brief notes the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the heart of 47 Tucanae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the search for Planet Nine.</li.
  • Far Outliers reports on the politics in 1868 of the first US Indian Bureau.
  • Imageo maps the depletion of sea ice in the Arctic.
  • Language Hat remembers the life of linguist Patricia Crampton.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes some of the potential pitfalls involved with Buy American campaigns (and like political programs in other countries), including broad-based xenophobia.
  • The LRB Blog looks at nationalism and identity in their intersections with anti-Muslim sentiment in Québec.
  • The Map Room Blog links to an essay on the last unmapped places.
  • Torontoist notes the 2017 Toronto budget is not going to support affordable housing.
  • Transit Toronto reports on TTC revisions to its schedules owing to shortfalls in equipment, like buses.
  • Window on Eurasia claims that Putin needs a successful war in Ukraine to legitimize his rule, just as Nicholas II needed a victory to save Tsarism.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO shares ten facts about Union Station.
  • Centauri Dreams describes possible ice volcanoes on Ceres.
  • Crooked Timber argues in favour of implementing a basic income before a universal income, on grounds of reducing inequality and easing the very poor.
  • The Crux shares an argument against dark matter.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze talks about nitrogen and oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres as biomarkers.
  • Far Outliers looks at intertribal warfare on the American plains in the 19th century.
  • The LRB Blog talks about critical shortages of translators, and funding for said, at official functions in the United Kingdom.
  • Language Log tries to translate the Chinese word used by the head of the Chinese supreme court to insult Donald Trump.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a map showing how particular areas of the United States are especially dependent on foreign trade.
  • pollotenchegg maps areas of relative youth and agedness in Ukraine.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at what happened to his Twitter stats after he quite.
  • Towleroad links to a new duet featuring Chrissie Hynde and Neil Tennant.
  • Window on Eurasia warns of a Russian invasion of Belarus and argues that Novgorod’s proto-democratic tradition no longer exists.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that a waterfront LCBO is set to become another Toronto condo development.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the difficulties involving with slowing down a light sail launched at relativistic speeds towards an extrasolar destination.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at a 1972 mail-order catalogue from a German retailer, full to the brim with retro-ness.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting T Tauri star V830 Tauri.
  • Language Log looks at Trump’s odd phrasing regarding Frederick Douglas, while Marginal Revolution notes the man’s opposition to racist immigration bars.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how some children at Cambodian orphanages are not actual orphans, but are merely taking advantage of foreign funding.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at a proposal for a new probe to study Enceladus and Titan for signs of habitability.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes Trump’s command responsibility for a failed military raid in Yemen.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map looking at the word for “church” in different European languages.
  • Towleroad notes a court ruling in the United Kingdom barring an Orthodox Jewish transgender woman from interacting with her children in real time, and reports on a Russian website that purports to warn users how many gay people are in any given city.
  • Understanding Society describes the problems with implementing ideologies and even policies in a very complex world.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian parliamentarian’s call for taking northern Kazakhstan, and reports on new border controls between Russia and Belarus.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes the rapid expansion of A&Ws across Toronto’s neighbourhoods.
  • Centauri Dreams reports that none of the exoplanets of nearby Wolf 1061 are likely to support Earth-like environments, owing to their eccentric and occasionally overclose orbits.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper looking at high-temperature condensate clouds in hot Jupiter atmospheres.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on Trump’s unsecured Android phone.
  • Language Log reports on Caucasian words relating to tea.
  • The LRB Blog notes the emerging close links connecting May’s United Kingdom with Trump’s United States and Netanyahu’s Israel.
  • Marginal Revolution shares an interview with chef and researcher Mark Miller and reports on the massive scale of Chinese investment in Cambodia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the idea of choosing between the Moon and Mars as particular targets of manned space exploration.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the mechanics of imposing a 20% tax in the United States on Mexican imports. (It is doable.)
  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports Russian shortfalls in funding HIV/AIDS medication programs.
  • Supernova Condensate warns that Trump’s hostility to the very idea of climate change threatens the world.
  • Towleroad shares the first gay kiss of (an) Iceman in Marvel’s comics.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the constitutional problems with Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities.
  • Window on Eurasia argues Ukraine is willing to fight if need be, even if sold out by Trump.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • ‘Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith writes about how allies should not accidentally inflict trauma.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Juno’s findings from Jupiter.
  • Dangerous Minds shares the photos of mid-20th century Japanese surrealist Kansuke Yamamoto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting the large majority of potentially habitable exoplanets have not been sterilized by gamma ray bursts.
  • Language Hat links to a New Yorker short story examining life in a university linguistics class.
  • Language Log argues, based on some questionable evidence, that either Chinese will transition to a Romanized script or English will start to displace written Chinese.
  • The Map Room Blog links to the MacLean’s review of the Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on the history and future of Denmark’s relationship with Australia.
  • Savage Minds wonders what future the traditional anthropological academy has under Trump.
  • Towleroad links to a crowdfunding effort for Leo Herrera’s film Founders, which will imagine a gay world unmarked by AIDS and where now departed luminaries of the 1980s and 1990s continue to exert influence. The last I checked, Herrera is already two-thirds of the way to his thirty thousand dollar goal.