Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















EXO WORLDS
Astrophysicists find that planetary harmonies around TRAPPIST-1 save it from destruction
by Staff Writers
Toronto, Canada (SPX) May 11, 2017


This is an artist's rendering of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1. Image courtesy NASA.

When NASA announced its discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system back in February it caused quite a stir, and with good reason. Three of its seven Earth-sized planets lay in the star's habitable zone, meaning they may harbour suitable conditions for life. But one of the major puzzles from the original research describing the system was that it seemed to be unstable.

"If you simulate the system, the planets start crashing into one another in less than a million years," says Dan Tamayo, a postdoc at U of T Scarborough's Centre for Planetary Science.

"This may seem like a long time, but it's really just an astronomical blink of an eye. It would be very lucky for us to discover TRAPPIST-1 right before it fell apart, so there must be a reason why it remains stable."

Tamayo and his colleagues seem to have found a reason why. In research published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, they describe the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system as being in something called a "resonant chain" that can strongly stabilize the system.

In resonant configurations, planets' orbital periods form ratios of whole numbers. It's a very technical principle, but a good example is how Neptune orbits the Sun three times in the amount of time it takes Pluto to orbit twice. This is a good thing for Pluto because otherwise it wouldn't exist. Since the two planets' orbits intersect, if things were random they would collide, but because of resonance, the locations of the planets relative to one another keeps repeating.

"There's a rhythmic repeating pattern that ensures the system remains stable over a long period of time," says Matt Russo, a post-doc at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) who has been working on creative ways to visualize the system.

TRAPPIST-1 takes this principle to a whole other level with all seven planets being in a chain of resonances. To illustrate this remarkable configuration, Tamayo, Russo and colleague Andrew Santaguida created an animation in which the planets play a piano note every time they pass in front of their host star, and a drum beat every time a planet overtakes its nearest neighbour.

Because the planets' periods are simple ratios of each other, their motion creates a steady repeating pattern that is similar to how we play music. Simple frequency ratios are also what makes two notes sound pleasing when played together.

Speeding up the planets' orbital frequencies into the human hearing range produces an astrophysical symphony of sorts, but one that's playing out more than 40 light years away.

"Most planetary systems are like bands of amateur musicians playing their parts at different speeds," says Russo. "TRAPPIST-1 is different; it's a super-group with all seven members synchronizing their parts in nearly perfect time."

But even synchronized orbits don't necessarily survive very long, notes Tamayo. For technical reasons, chaos theory also requires precise orbital alignments to ensure systems remain stable. This can explain why the simulations done in the original discovery paper quickly resulted in the planets colliding with one another.

"It's not that the system is doomed, it's that stable configurations are very exact," he says. "We can't measure all the orbital parameters well enough at the moment, so the simulated systems kept resulting in collisions because the setups weren't precise."

In order to overcome this Tamayo and his team looked at the system not as it is today, but how it may have originally formed. When the system was being born out of a disk of gas, the planets should have migrated relative to one another, allowing the system to naturally settle into a stable resonant configuration.

"This means that early on, each planet's orbit was tuned to make it harmonious with its neighbours, in the same way that instruments are tuned by a band before it begins to play," says Russo. "That's why the animation produces such beautiful music."

The team tested the simulations using the supercomputing cluster at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) and found that the majority they generated remained stable for as long as they could possibly run it. This was about 100 times longer than it took for the simulations in the original research paper describing TRAPPIST-1 to go berserk.

"It seems somehow poetic that this special configuration that can generate such remarkable music can also be responsible for the system surviving to the present day," says Tamayo.

EXO WORLDS
Two Webb instruments well suited for detecting exoplanet atmospheres
University Park PA (SPX) May 10, 2017
The best way to study the atmospheres of distant worlds with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in late 2018, will combine two of its infrared instruments, according to a team of astronomers. "We wanted to know which combination of observing modes (of Webb) gets you the maximum information content for the minimum cost," says Natasha Batalha, graduate student in astronomy a ... read more

Related Links
University of Toronto
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

EXO WORLDS
'Awesomesauce,' proclaims US astronaut on historic spacewalk

Six-legged livestock - sustainable food production

External commercial ISS platform starts second mission

NASA Receives Proposals for Future Solar System Mission

EXO WORLDS
SpaceX launches Inmarsat communications satellite

Testing Prepares NASA's Space Launch System for Liftoff

N. Korea's 'new missile' has unprecedented range: experts

NASA Affirms Plan for First Mission of SLS, Orion

EXO WORLDS
Opportunity Reaches 'Perseverance Valley'

Ancient Mars impacts created tornado-like winds that scoured surface

Mars Rover Opportunity Begins Study of Valley's Origin

Seasonal Flows in Valles Marineris

EXO WORLDS
A cabin on the moon? China hones the lunar lifestyle

China tests 'Lunar Palace' as it eyes moon mission

China to conduct several manned space flights around 2020

Reach for the Stars: China Plans to Ramp Up Space Flight Activity

EXO WORLDS
Allied Minds' portfolio company BridgeSat raises $6 million in Series A financing

AIA report outlines policies needed to boost the US Space Industry competitiveness

Blue Sky Network Targets Key Markets For Iridium SATCOM Solutions

How Outsourcing Your Satellite Related Services Saves You Time and Money

EXO WORLDS
"Airbus Friedrichshafen: new satellite hub lays groundwork for the future"

Physics may bring faster solutions for tough computational problems

A bath for precision printing of 3-D silicone structures

Physical keyboards make virtual reality typing easier

EXO WORLDS
'Warm Neptune' Has Unexpectedly Primitive Atmosphere

Astrophysicists find that planetary harmonies around TRAPPIST-1 save it from destruction

Two Webb instruments well suited for detecting exoplanet atmospheres

Variable Winds on Hot Giant Exoplanet Help Study of Magnetic Field

EXO WORLDS
Waves of lava seen in Io's largest volcanic crater

Not So Great Anymore: Jupiter's Red Spot Shrinks to Smallest Size Ever

The PI's Perspective: No Sleeping Back on Earth!

ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement