OU Astrophysicist Identifies Composition of Earth-Size Planets in TRAPPIST-1 System
For Immediate Release: June 8, 2017
NORMAN – A University of Oklahoma post-doctoral astrophysics researcher, Billy Quarles, has identified the possible compositions of the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Using thousands of numerical simulations to identify the planets stable for millions of years, Quarles concluded that six of the seven planets are consistent with an Earth-like composition. The exception is TRAPPIST-1f, which has a mass of 25 percent water, suggesting that TRAPPIST-1e may be the best candidate for future habitability studies.
“The goal of exoplanetary astronomy is to find planets that are similar to Earth in composition and potentially habitable,” said Quarles. “For thousands of years, astronomers have sought other worlds capable of sustaining life.”
Quarles, a researcher in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, OU College of Arts and Sciences, collaborated with scientists, E.V. Quintana, E. Lopez, J.E. Schlieder and T. Barclay at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on the project. Numerical simulations for this project were performed using the Pleiades Supercomputer provided by the NASA High-End Computing Program through the Ames Research Center and at the OU Supercomputing Center for Education and Research.
TRAPPIST-1 planets are more tightly spaced than in Kepler systems, which allow for transit timing variations with the photometric observations. These variations tell the researchers about the mass of the planets and the radii are measured through the eclipses. Mass and radius measurements can then infer the density. By comparing the Earth’s density (mostly rock) to the TRAPPIST-1 planets, Quarles can determine what the planets are likely composed of and provide insight into whether they are potentially habitable.
TRAPPIST-1f has the tightest constraints with 25 percent of its mass in water, which is rare given its radius. The concern of this planet is that the mass is 70 percent the mass of the Earth, but it is the same size as the Earth. Because the radius is so large, the pressure turns the water to steam, and it is likely too hot for life as we know it. The search for planets with a composition as close to Earth’s as possible is key for finding places that we could identify as being habitable. Quarles said he is continually learning about the planets and will investigate them further in his studies.
TRAPPIST-1 is a nearby ultra-cool dwarf about 40 light-years away from Earth and host to a remarkable planetary system consisting of seven transiting planets. The seven planets are known as TRAPPIST 1b, c, d, e, f, g and h. For more information about TRAPPIST-1, visit https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1.
“Plausible Compositions of the Seven TRAPPIST-1 Planets Using Long-term Dynamical Simulations,” was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Funding for this project was provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and University of Oklahoma. For more information, contact Quarles at email@example.com.
OU Norman Campus to Close For Maintenance March 19-20
NORMAN - Due to a request by OG&E to perform significant electrical maintenance work, the Norman campus of the University of Oklahoma will close on Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Read more
OU to Host Fifth Annual Conference for First-Generation and Minority Students
NORMAN – The Office of University Community at the University of Oklahoma will host its fifth annual George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Leadership Conference, a program aimed at connecting OU with talented first-generation and minority students. Read more
OU Board of Regents Elects Bennett, Rainbolt-Forbes as Officers
NORMAN — Clayton I. Bennett of Oklahoma City has been re-elected as chairman of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes, M.D., has been re-elected as vice chairman of the board. Read more
James Pappas Admin Building Dedicated
NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma today dedicated the James P. Pappas University Outreach Administration Building located at 1700 Asp Ave. Read more
Dean Rick Luce Announces Plans to Retire
NORMAN – Following a long and distinguished career in libraries, Rick Luce, University of Oklahoma Libraries’ dean, professor and Peggy V. Helmerich chair, and associate vice president for research, is announcing his retirement, effective July 1, 2018. Read more
Drama School Alumna Earns Recognition
NORMAN — Paige Hathaway, 2011 graduate of the bachelor of fine arts scenic design program in the University of Oklahoma Helmerich School of Drama, earned the 2018 Rising Star Award, presentedby the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. The Rising Star Award, established by LDI and Live Design Magazine, recognizes excellence and artistic achievement in the areas of scenic, lighting, sound and projection design, or the convergence of these design disciplines. Read More
OU Residential Colleges Recognized As Outstanding Development Project
NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma’s Residential Colleges recently won the “Large Scale Development” category in the Urban Land Institute Oklahoma’s fourth annual Impact Awards held at the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City. Read More
OU Professor Elected as Fellow of Ecological Society of America
NORMAN —A University of Oklahoma professor, Jizhong Zhou, has been elected as a 2018 Fellow of the Ecological Society of America for outstanding accomplishments in environmental genomics and microbial ecology. Zhou and other ESA fellows will be recognized during the society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Aug. 5-10. Read More