Trappist-1 could be 9.8 BILLION years old, study finds

The nearby Trappist-1 star system could be up to twice as old as our own, a new study has found.

Researchers now estimate the star at the heart of Trappist-1 is between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old, spurring new questions on the orbit stability of the seven planets circling it, and the potential for life to have evolved in this time.

As older stars are known to produce fewer flares than younger stars, this could be favourable for the planets’ habitability – but, the longer timeline could also mean any water or atmosphere has been boiled off under years of high-energy radiation.

Scroll down for video 

Researchers now estimate the star at the heart of Trappist-1 is between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old, spurring new questions on the orbit stability of the seven planets circling it, and the potential for life to have evolved in this time. An artist's impression is pictured 

Researchers now estimate the star at the heart of Trappist-1 is between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old, spurring new questions on the orbit stability of the seven planets circling it, and the potential for life to have evolved in this time. An artist's impression is pictured 

TRAPPIST-1 SOLAR SYSTEM, AT A GLANCE

The newly discovered star system is just 39 light years from Earth.

Seven Earth-sized worlds are orbiting a dwarf star known as Trappist-1 Six inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from 0-100°C (32-212°F) Of these, at least three are thought to be capable of having oceans, increasing the likelihood of life -Scientists say life may have already evolved on at least three of the planets No other star system known contains such a large number of Earth-sized and probably rocky planets They were found using the 'transit' method that looks for tiny amounts of dimming caused by a world blocking light from its star 

According to NASA, the age of a star system is an important factor in determining its potential habitability.

When the ultra-cool dwarf star Trappist-1 and its seven orbiting planets were first discovered 37 light-years away, scientists estimated it was at least 500 million years old, based on the size of low-mass star.

Now, a study led by researchers from NASA and the University of California, San Diego has found it’s much older.

To determine this, the researchers measured the speed of the star in its orbit around the Milky Way, the atmosphere’s chemical composition, and the number of flares during the observation period.

At up to 9.8 billion years old, Trappist-1 could be double the age of our solar system, which formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago.

‘Our results really help constrain the evolution of the Trappist-1 system, because the system has to have persisted for billions of years,’ said Adam Burgasser, an astronomer at the University of California, San Diego, and the paper’s first author.

While they may have honed in on its age, the scientists haven’t yet figured out what this means for its potential to support life.

An older star may be ‘quieter,’ the researchers explain, and the study confirms that, compared to other ultra-cool dwarf stars, Trappist-1 does in fact create fewer flares.

As older stars are known to produce fewer flares than younger stars, this could be favourable for the planets’ habitability – but, the longer timeline could also mean any water or atmosphere has been boiled off under years of high-energy radiation. An artist's impression is pictured 

As older stars are known to produce fewer flares than younger stars, this could be favourable for the planets’ habitability – but, the longer timeline could also mean any water or atmosphere has been boiled off under years of high-energy radiation. An artist's impression is pictured 

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

PREV Night vision could protect birds and bats from wind farms
NEXT North Atlantic right whale deaths puzzle scientists