Atmospheric reconnaissance of the habitable-zone Earth-sized planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1

de Wit, Julien; Wakeford, Hannah R.; Lewis, Nikole K.; Delrez, Laetitia; Gillon, Michaël; Selsis, Frank; Leconte, Jérémy; Demory, Brice-Olivier; Bolmont, Emeline; Bourrier, Vincent; Burgasser, Adam J.; Grimm, Simon; Jehin, Emmanuël; Lederer, Susan M.; Owen, James E.; Stamenković, Vlada; Triaud, Amaury H. M. J. (2018). Atmospheric reconnaissance of the habitable-zone Earth-sized planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1. Nature astronomy, 2(3), pp. 214-219. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41550-017-0374-z

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Seven temperate Earth-sized exoplanets readily amenable for atmospheric studies transit the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 (refs ¹,²). Their atmospheric regime is unknown and could range from extended primordial hydrogen-dominated to depleted atmospheres³⁻⁶. Hydrogen in particular is a powerful greenhouse gas that may prevent the habitability of inner planets while enabling the habitability of outer ones⁶⁻⁸. An atmosphere largely dominated by hydrogen, if cloud-free, should yield prominent spectroscopic signatures in the near-infrared detectable during transits. Observations of the innermost planets have ruled out such signatures⁹. However, the outermost planets are more likely to have sustained such a Neptune-like atmosphere¹⁰,¹¹. Here, we report observations for the four planets within or near the system’s habitable zone, the circumstellar region where liquid water could exist on a planetary surface¹²⁻¹⁴. These planets do not exhibit prominent spectroscopic signatures at near-infrared wavelengths either, which rules out cloud-free hydrogen-dominated atmospheres for TRAPPIST-1 d, e and f, with significance of 8σ, 6σ and 4σ, respectively. Such an atmosphere is instead not excluded for planet g. As high-altitude clouds and hazes are not expected in hydrogen-dominated atmospheres around planets with such insolation15, 16, these observations further support their terrestrial and potentially habitable nature.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > NCCR PlanetS

UniBE Contributor:

Demory, Brice-Olivier and Grimm, Simon


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science > 530 Physics




Nature Publishing Group




Danielle Zemp

Date Deposited:

29 May 2019 17:48

Last Modified:

29 May 2019 17:48

Publisher DOI:





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