Physics Spotlight  
An artist’s depiction of planets transiting a red dwarf star in the TRAPPIST-1 System. Courtesy of NASA/ESA/STSclAn artist’s depiction of planets transiting a red dwarf star in the TRAPPIST-1 System
Courtesy of NASA/ESA/STScl

First atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets reveals rocky worlds

Two potentially habitable planets in nearby system are confirmed to be rocky.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
July 20, 2016

On May 2, scientists from MIT, the University of Liège, and elsewhere announced they had discovered a planetary system, a mere 40 light years from Earth, that hosts three potentially habitable, Earth-sized worlds. Judging from the size and temperature of the planets, the researchers determined that regions of each planet may be suitable for life.

Now, in a paper published today in Nature, that same group reports that the two innermost planets in the system are primarily rocky, unlike gas giants such as Jupiter. The findings further strengthen the case that these planets may indeed be habitable. The researchers also determined that the atmospheres of both planets are likely not large and diffuse, like that of the Jupiter, but instead compact, similar to the atmospheres of Earth, Venus, and Mars.
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