Activity of the red dwarf TRAPPIST-1 increased the chances of habitability of its planets

(ORDO NEWS) — Simulations have shown that TRAPPIST-1’s deadly flares could support long-term geological activity on its rocky planets, making them more habitable.

The appearance of our Earth and the very possibility of life on it are associated with its high geological activity, which has been preserved for billions of years.

These processes are fueled by the slow transfer of heat from the planet’s core, where radioactive elements decay, to its surface.

Other mechanisms are known that are capable of creating geological activity, but most of them cannot work for such a long time.

However, a new study by European astrophysicists has shown that planets in red dwarf systems can remain geologically “alive” for a long time due to the violent activity of their parent star.

Scientists turned to the famous TRAPPIST-1 system , located less than 40 light years from the Sun. At its center is an M-class red dwarf only slightly larger than our Jupiter.

At least seven rocky planets revolve around the star, and in fairly close orbits.

Therefore, despite its low brightness, some of them remain within the “habitable zone” of TRAPPIST-1 and could theoretically be suitable for life.

However, this possibility also depends on how geologically active the planets are. Another feature of red dwarfs can provide unexpected help in this – their violent and unpredictable activity.

They now and then burst into powerful flares and mass ejections, which are believed to be capable of destroying the atmospheres of nearby planets and sterilizing their surface.

But modeling done by Graver and his co-authors has shown that the same flares are driving planetary geological activity.

Since red dwarfs are very long-lived stars, such processes can be maintained for billions of years.

Scientists attribute this to the same phenomenon that causes a conductor to heat up when a current flows through its resistance.

In electronics, ohmic energy losses are associated with it, but on the TRAPPIST-1 planets, this is what causes the crust to heat up.

Calculating their “energy budget”, astronomers have shown that it is quite enough to continuously maintain geological activity.

The associated volcanic activity and the flow of gases from the depths can compensate for the erosion of the atmosphere due to the constant flares of the star.

In addition, the same phenomena can create global magnetic fields, making the planets in theory even more suitable for life.


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