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TRAPPIST-1 is older than our Solar System

15 August 2017 Astronomy Now

Scientists now have a good estimate for the age of one of the most intriguing planetary systems discovered to date — TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven Earth-size worlds orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star about 40 light-years away. Researchers say in a new study that the TRAPPIST-1 star is quite old: between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years. This is up to twice as old as our own Solar System, which formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

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Smallest-ever star discovered by astronomers

12 July 2017 Astronomy Now

The smallest star yet measured has been discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Cambridge. With a size just a sliver larger than that of Saturn, the gravitational pull at its stellar surface is about 300 times stronger than what humans feel on Earth.

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Mini-flares potentially jeopardise habitability of planets circling red dwarf stars

11 June 2017 Astronomy Now

Cool dwarf stars are hot targets for exoplanet hunting right now. The discoveries of planets in the habitable zones of the TRAPPIST-1 and LHS 1140 systems, for example, suggest that Earth-sized worlds might circle billions of red dwarf stars, the most common type of star in our galaxy. But, like our own sun, many of these stars erupt with intense flares. Are red dwarfs really as friendly to life as they appear, or do these flares make the surfaces of any orbiting planets inhospitable?

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Nearby star is home to seven possibly-habitable planets

22 February 2017 Keith Cooper

Seven Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a single ultra-cool dwarf star 40 light years away. Depending on atmospheric conditions, all seven could potentially be habitable, making the system a prime target for scientists hunting for another Earth.

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Low-mass star simulations favour water-rich, Earth-sized planets

24 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists at the University of Bern conducting computer simulations of the formation of planets orbiting in the habitable zone of low-mass stars, such as the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, show that these planets are most likely to be roughly the size of the Earth and to contain large amounts of water.

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Nearby Venus-like exoplanet might have oxygen atmosphere

20 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The distant planet GJ 1132b intrigued astronomers when it was discovered last year. Located just 39 light-years from Earth and orbiting its red dwarf star every 1.6 days, new research shows that despite being baked to a temperature of around 232 °C, GJ 1132b might possess a thin, oxygen atmosphere — but no life due to its extreme heat.