Strong XUV irradiation of the Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the ultracool dwarf TRAPPIST-1

14 Dec 2016  ·  Wheatley Peter J., Louden Tom, Bourrier Vincent, Ehrenreich David, Gillon Michaël ·

We present an XMM-Newton X-ray observation of TRAPPIST-1, which is an ultracool dwarf star recently discovered to host three transiting and temperate Earth-sized planets. We find the star is a relatively strong and variable coronal X-ray source with an X-ray luminosity similar to that of the quiet Sun, despite its much lower bolometric luminosity... We find L_x/L_bol=2-4x10^-4, with the total XUV emission in the range L_xuv/L_bol=6-9x10^-4, and XUV irradiation of the planets that is many times stronger than experienced by the present-day Earth. Using a simple energy-limited model we show that the relatively close-in Earth-sized planets, which span the classical habitable zone of the star, are subject to sufficient X-ray and EUV irradiation to significantly alter their primary and any secondary atmospheres. Understanding whether this high-energy irradiation makes the planets more or less habitable is a complex question, but our measured fluxes will be an important input to the necessary models of atmospheric evolution. read more

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics