Finding water on planets outside of Earth raises the possibility of finding life outside of this planet. The problem that researchers have run into is that yes, they may have found water on another planet, but that could be too much water to support life.
The problem before was not finding any water, now too much has been discovered.
Water May Be The Problem
Researchers from Arizona State University and Vanderbilt University found that the exoplanets discovered in the TRAPPIST-1 system may have too much water to support life. They've published a new paper in Nature Astronomy detailing the discovery of new research that shows that planet may be too wet.
In the study, the researchers used previous data from the discovery of the exoplanets that determined the mass and diameters of each planet to calculate the density. Using that data, they were able to determine what the planets were made up of water.
Researchers were able to determine that all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to have oceans that have hundreds of times the amount of water that is present on Earth. The planets with the most water may have over 1,000 times more water than Earth.
Using computer models, the scientists were able to determine the composition of the planets. TRAPPIST-1's innermost planets are about 10 percent water by mass, the more distant planets are at least 50 percent water by mass. Earth is only 0.2 percent water by mass.
This means that these planets may consist entirely of water. There is no exposed land on the planets. Without land, this could disrupt the geological processes that make a planet habitable. TRAPPIST-1's planet may be lacking volcanoes that can release carbon dioxide. This makes it easier to catch heat in the planet's atmosphere.
Planet surrounding red dwarfs like TRAPPIST-1 may already have other challenges that make it difficult to develop life. If planets orbit too close to the star, they may be tidally locked — one side always faces the star. This means conditions on both sides of the planet may be radically different. While one side has extreme heat, the other may be very cold.
TRAPPIST-1 is a red dwarf and is 39 light years away from Earth. It is surrounded by seven planets that are around the same size as Earth. The exoplanets were discovered using the transit method, which uses the dips in the brightness of the star to determine the size of each world.
Researchers used this previous information to determine the composition of each planet, which revealed the amount of water found there.