back to article Ultra-cool dwarf throws planetary party

Astroboffins have discovered a trio of roughly Earth-sized planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star, the first time such a system has been identified. Using the Belgian TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) 'scope at The European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile, a team led by …

  1. Dr. E. Amweaver
    Coat

    Ultra-cool dwarf star?

    TRAPPIST-1?

    Frankly, "set course for the Tyrion system" would be cooler...

    1. Graham Marsden
      Coat

      Re: Ultra-cool dwarf star?

      Not the "Fonzie" system?

      Mine's the leather jacket...

  2. Crisp Silver badge

    Is this a place we could send a nano-probe to?

    It would be interesting for my grandkids to find out if it's habitable or not.

  3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Why am I thinking of this 60's song?

    Its now the 'Age of Aquarius' ?

    Of course its interesting that the discovery is 47 years after the song was released, and the distance is 40 light years away...

    Just a coincidence? ;-)

    Paris, because this is a bit of an airhead post...

    1. Wyrdness

      Re: Why am I thinking of this 60's song?

      I'm thinking of a song by the worlds most ultra-cool dwarf....

      Boys and girls, I think you’ll find

      That my pants will blow your mind

      Look at my pants with the eyes in your face

      My legs are covered in outer space

      Space Pants!

  4. kryptonaut
    Angel

    Shhh!

    Attempts to contact TRAPPIST-1 have so far been met with silence...

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Ultra-cool. Just the destination for a C ark with all the hipsters on it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Telescopes?

    Why do they need those? They could just ask that photographer to take more images from where they are.

    1. kmac499

      Re: Telescopes?

      But the 80 year round trip for the call to the photographer and the photo's to come back? then there's the roamimg charges, as I'm fairly sure that system is outside the EU...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Telescopes?

        ...and he uses a chemist lab in the next galaxy...

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "The structure of this planetary system is much more similar in scale to the system of Jupiter’s moons than to that of the Solar System."

    Reads a bit like someone made a model for a high school science project...

  8. Sir Sham Cad

    TRAPPIST

    That is some excellent backronyming there chaps. Well done!

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: TRAPPIST

      Not a backronym just another contrived acronym (conacronym?). I suspect there's a webpage that generates these things somewhere.

  9. HkraM
    Thumb Up

    "3 May 2016 at 11:20, Leicester Haines"

    I see what you did there!

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Well spotted sir - award yourself a beer, since I will most certainly be partaking this evening.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fusion?

    "not massive enough to sustain hydrogen fusion"

    If it was not sustaining Hydrogen fusion then it wouldn't be a star; it would just be a gas giant. It does, in fact, sustain Hydrogen fusion but via Deuterium fusion, which is the second stage of the Hydrogen-1 proton-proton fusion process that powers larger stars.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: Fusion?

      Thanks, that saved me the bother of asking "wft ...?"

    2. CarbonLifeForm

      Re: Fusion?

      Is non hydrogen fusion known to happen in celestial bodies that have not been stars fusing hydrogen before? Our own star will start fusing other things as it gets older, but of course it started with hydrogen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fusion?

        Hydrogen is the easiest element to fuse and so yes, all stars start by fusing Hydrogen.

        Briefly, as the gas that is to become a star collapses and compresses under its own gravity it reaches a point where the Hydrogen at the center of the gravitationally collapsing gas becomes heated and compressed sufficiently for fusion to occur. The outpouring of energy from the the newly started fusion process then counteracts further collapse due to gravity but once most of the Hydrogen in the core is fused the out-pressure from fusion drops and the star resumes gravitational collapse until the Helium in the core, produced by the fusion of the Hydrogen, can start fusing. The Helium fusion, along with the renewed gravitational collapse, leads to Hydrogen fusion in a shell around the Helium core (which is when the star starts its giant phase). This process may repeat several times, depending upon the characteristics of the star, with successively heavier elements fusing in the core, surrounded by multiple fusing shells of progressively lighter elements.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trappist-1

    Well if there are habitable planets, at least they'll to have some decent ales to drink.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Trappist-1

      Planet COORS I to COORS IV, then.

  12. DougS Silver badge

    How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

    Evolution of life as we know it requires three major things - liquid water, sufficient energy input, and time. The first two are taken care of, has the third been?

    Another potential issue is that planets that close would be tidally locked to the star, and have one side in perpetual daylight and the other in perpetual (and likely icy) night. The habitable range of the planet may be the relatively small portion in perpetual twilight, though at a certain distance the large section under full sun would be good to go. I wonder what sort of different creatures might evolve in an environment without a night or in perpetual twilight? Probably would look like Avatar's world with a lot of bioluminescent critters, if our deep ocean is any guide.

    1. Malc
      Mushroom

      Re: How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

      You do realise that cold, small stars burn for a lot longer? Or not so much burn as smoulder and eventually cool. They're lifetimes could be measured by the trillion years, not the 10 or so billion our little yellow dwarf star can look forward to.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

        Not necessarily, if they are so small they don't burn their hydrogen, but only deuterium...

        Granted the lifetime is probably very very long anyway, but I was more curious about how old the system was. If the star only formed 100 million years ago, life is unlikely.

    2. CarbonLifeForm

      Re: How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

      The bottom of our oceans gives clues as to what dark side inhabitants of these planets might look like and their food chain. In fact, it may be less of a strict separator than we think. Some creatures might require sunlight and stay in light, some abhor it and stay in dark, and some may go back and forth. Like deep water vent ecosystems.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

        If the planets are tidally locked, wouldn't the dark side be frozen solid? Unless the heat differential causes ocean currents and winds strong enough to mix things up and prevent that...not really sure how that would work.

        1. annodomini2

          Re: How old is that system / how long does an ultra cool dwarf last?

          Depends on the atmosphere if they have one.

          A relatively dense atmosphere could transfer energy from the star facing side of the planet to the side facing away.

        2. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Winds on tidally-locked planet

          http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/13/todays_explanet_weather_1800degc_8700_kmh_winds/

          Studies of HD 189733b – discovered in 2005 transiting the star HD 189733, which lies some 63 light years from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula – have revealed that the planet has a mass of around 13 per cent greater than Jupiter's, but that it's 180 times closer to its sun than our own gas monster.

          That, and the fact that it's tidally locked, mean that temperatures on the permanently sun-facing side hit 1,000°C, and a positively balmy 650°C on the dark side.

          That's according to a 2007 observation by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, although later work by Swiss astronomers suggested temperatures in the upper atmosphere might reach a scorching 3,000°C.

          Whatever the case, it's bloody hot, but the "mild" (as NASA puts it) temperature variation between the planet's lit and unlit sides mean that winds are likely distributing heat around the planet.

  13. figure 11

    Brown dwarf

    We not calling them brown dwarves any more?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brown dwarf

      We are now calling them "tripel dwarves."

    2. Sway

      Re: Brown dwarf

      No, the P.C brigade says that is rasist.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Brown dwarf

        "No, the P.C brigade says that is rasist."

        Sorry, but "Fully enabled star of medium pigmentation and diminutive stature" is just to clumsy to use in everyday speech.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    What a time to be alive

    Gotta love science.

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