Climate Models Wipe out Life in Trappist-1 Solar System!!!

Guest post by David Middleton

They must have used the RCP 8.5 Death Star…


The announcement of the Trappist-1 system in February, with seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, sent ripples of excitement through astrobiologists everywhere.

At least three of the planets looked like they were within the star’s “habitable zone” – the region in which water will remain liquid. On that level, at least, the trio seemed like very good candidates for hosting life.

Now, however, 3D climate modelling is dampening expectations, suggesting that at most only one of Trappist-1’s satellites could support life.

The modelling has been completed by Eric Wolf from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In doing so, he made the assumption that the seven planets are – or had once been – ocean-covered, with atmospheres comprising nitrogen, carbon-dioxide and water vapour. Orbital and geophysical properties were derived or deduced from collected data.

When Wolf ran the numbers, the results were rather depressing.

“Model results indicate that the inner three planets presently reside interior to the inner edge of the traditional liquid water habitable zone,” he writes in a paper lodged on pre-print site arxiv.

“Thus if water ever existed on the inner planets, they would have undergone a runaway greenhouse and lost their water to space, leaving them dry today.”

The outer three planets, he adds, “fall beyond the maximum CO2 greenhouse outer edge of the habitable zone” and will have entered a lifeless snowball state.

Thus, only the middle planet remains a candidate for hosting life. It could maintain “at least some habitable surface”, Wolf notes, depending on the atmospheric nitrogen levels. If the planet is, in fact, covered in ocean, then “near present day Earth surface temperatures can be maintained”.



Don’t get me wrong, I find the entire field of exoplanetary science and the Kepler mission to be really cool.  The application of a remote sensing method to detect and even describe likely planetary bodies in other solar systems is just about the coolest science on this planet… But, are they really “discovering” exoplanets?  It seems to me that this would be analogous to oil companies booking reserves on the basis of high-quality seismic hydrocarbon indicators, without ever drilling them.

Clearly, there are a series of anomalies in the Trappist-1 system which could very well be planets in the habitable zone… But, isn’t this an case of jumping the gun?

NEWS & TECHNOLOGY 1 March 2017

How we’re already seeking life on TRAPPIST-1’s rocky planets

By Leah Crane and Joshua Sokol

WE ARE already taking the first steps toward learning if there could be life on TRAPPIST-1’s newly discovered planets – and what that life might look like.

Last week, a team led by Michaël Gillon at Belgium’s University of Liege announced that TRAPPIST-1, a small, faint star some 40 light years away, has four more rocky planets to join the three we already knew about.

All are less than 20 per cent bigger than Earth, and all orbit well within the distance at which Mercury circles our sun. Despite this closeness, the planets may be candidates to search for life. That’s because TRAPPIST-1 is much smaller and dimmer than the sun, so three of the planets may be cool enough to host liquid water on the surface, putting them in the habitable zone (see diagram).

Without even actually seeing the Trappist-1 system, it appears that the exoplanetary scientists discovered extraterrestrial life capable of a rudimentary form of space travel, only to have that life wiped out by climate models… Cue the guy from the Hindenburg broadcast…

As usual, any and all sarcasm was purely intentional.


173 thoughts on “Climate Models Wipe out Life in Trappist-1 Solar System!!!

  1. Since some scientists imagine that microbes could have hitched rides on impact ejecta from Mars to Earth, similar space travel among those closely-packed planets seems plausible.

      • I think there is likely zero chance for life of any kind to be found there.
        The star is a white dwarf. So at some point in its life it was more like the sun. It must have gone through the red giant phase of it’s evolution earlier. ALL of the planets currently reside inside what would be the orbital zone of Mercury. Being that close to their host star, the planets would have been scorched by the stellar envelope during the red giant phase.
        It is highly likely that all of the atmospheres and planetary water sources of all seven planets were removed during the red giant phase

      • Thanks for the info Chimp. I was looking at the WIKI page and misread “Ultra cool dwarf” as “Ultra cool white dwarf” I should have delved deeper into the article. The M class didn’t even register, I guess multitasking isn’t a strong suit

      • From the wiki page (please forgive citing Wiki) an ultracool dwarf can be “M-dwarf late-type stars, at the threshold of L4 dwarf stars. They form a heterogeneous group which includes stars of very low mass and brown dwarfs.” Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics (much more comfortable with this reference) describes a “late-M dwarf” as “M and L dwarfs are red”.

      • So now I think there is a 0.001% chance of life being there and a zero% chance of us finding it within 50 lifetimes

      • Bryan,

        You weren’t far off, because Wolf, the climate modeler, points out that, to get to its current ultracool red dwarf state, TRAPPIST-1 must have gone through a super-luminous phase before its main sequence.

        That would mean for as long as a billion years, TRAPPIST-1e was subjected to intense stellar radiation, and could have “lost up to ~7 Earth oceans of water.”

        You’ll love this part of the article linked below:

        “Wolf does, however, note that this is merely the first in many climate models that the planets will be tested against.

        “It would be unfair to be harsh on NASA for the original estimate. Wolf says the estimates of “equilibrium temperatures below ~400 K” does suggest “Goldilocks” temperatures, but that equilibrium is a “rudimentary” measure, not a climate model.”

      • But it’s possible that the planets formed farther out from the star when it was young and throwing radiation tantrums, then migrated inward, in which case planet 1e might still harbor life. Odds are however long, IMO.

    • unless they know the surface pressure on the planet they cannot know the surface temperature. regardless of GHG content, any convecting atmosphere will develop a lapse rate, that cools the upper atmosphere and warms the lower atmosphere. otherwise, the atmosphere will be isothermal.

      on earth, the surface warming due convection and the lapse rate is:

      5km = center of mass of convecting atmosphere
      6.5C/km = lapse rate due to gravity (KE/PE) and condensation of water

      5km X 6.5C\km = 32.5 C

      note: climate science mistakenly believes that this 33C of warming is due to GHG. In point of fact, since only KE is included in temperature, by converting between KE and PE, convection changes the vertical temperature of the atmosphere and thus the surface. On Venus, with a surface pressure of 90 atmospheres, the surface warming due to convection is much greater. On Mars, with a much lower surface pressure,m the surface warming due to convection is much less.

      • The 33 degree C of warming above what would be the temperature without an atmosphere requires greenhouse gases. For that matter, an atmosphere without greenhouse gases resists convection – greenhouse gases cooling the top of the troposphere and warming the surface and bottom of the troposphere is the main cause of the convection. Also, without greenhouse gases, the surface would have the same temperature (4th root of mean T^4 being the same on average) as if there was no atmosphere at all. Also without greenhouse gases, all localized convection would be confined to very low altitudes (meaning a tropopause close to the surface) and be forced by wind (which would be light) generated by planetary-scale (although very thin) convection cells.

      • Lapse rates do not require greenhouse gasses. They work by entirely different principles.
        Greenhouse gasses raise temperature by slowing radiative cooling. The lapse rate warms by shuffling any heat in the atmosphere downward through transfer of kinetic energy when molecules bump into each other, no radiation involved. No convection needed unless temperatures stray off the lapse rate, then only enough to restore the profile.

      • “on earth, the surface warming due convection and the lapse rate is”


        Are you saying that air that absorbs heat from the surface, then cools down and sinks, warm the surface?
        Hos about a boiling pot of water, do you think that the water that heats up at the bortom and rise to the surface, also heats the bottom of the pot?

      • The whole thing is a farce, They can not even get this planet’s climate modelled correctly with the massive amount of data available on it and they have virtually NO information on exo-planets in Trappist-1. Periodic ripples in intensity of the light coming from that star. It’s like archaeologists speculations when they find odd looking stone and spin a whole civilisation around, with essential spicy bits about “fertility symbols” and human sacrifices.

        This yet more hubris from climate modellers who refuse to accept they are a waste of time and money and thing they can bolster the credibility of spurious climate predictions by pretending that they can now model how exo-planets behave.

      • ferd, the presence of an atmosphere results in a temperature gradient just due to the exchange of potential energy with kinetic energy of the gas due to gravity. However, this lapse rate determines the change in temperature with altitude (a gradient), not the absolute magnitude of the temperature. The absolute magnitude is found from the absorbed solar radiation balance with outgoing radiation, but the average location in the atmosphere where outgoing radiation to space occurs sets the location in the atmosphere where the magnitude of the temperature derived from absorbed solar radiation is determined. The larger the amount of greenhouse gases, the higher is the altitude for average location of radiation to space, and thus the higher surface temperature.

      • ferdberple, you are exactly right. It is the atmospheric pressure that determines the lower atmospheric pressure and not the gas composition. We need to keep correcting them when they insist that Venus is a runaway greenhouse situation.

        ““Thus if water ever existed on the inner planets, they would have undergone a runaway greenhouse and lost their water to space, leaving them dry today.””

        Since there is no such thing as a runaway greenhouse effect, which is a climate alarmist junk-science creation, it is nice to know that these planets have the making for originating photosynthesis.

        We the life there evolves far enough, maybe they can sue the climate modelers for misrepresenting them to a whole other planet’s population. Libel.

      • Glad to see that the gravitational cause of atmospheric “lapse rate” in the absence of any quantitative equations explaining it in terms of Hansen’s GHG claims is becoming more common . I would just say , I don’t think convection is necessary . It will only occur if a significant amount of radiant energy reaches the planetary surface to be thermalized there .

        Donald , I have never seen anything but the most amateurish , crude and confused “explanations” of the “33c” GHG meme . Simply just the bald assertion you make in your first sentence .

        It is essentially a spectral filtering argument based on the crudest of computations the purveyors of which appear not to even understand the generalization of the computation to arbitrary spectra . The notion fails by an order of magnitude for any possible spectra when applied to Venus’s surface temperature 2.25 times that of a gray body in orbit next to it .

      • Bob, I think you’re forgetting that even with a thick, cloudy atmosphere, the planet usually needs to get rid of heat. That’s the reason Venus is so hot. The temperature at the ground isn’t magically concentrated solar energy from our sun…its heat from the core of the planet.

        And on a side note related to the runaway greenhouse effect. The atmosphere of venus has about 50X the mass of earth’s atmosphere/oceans combined. So venus is not so much “runaway” as “never run down”. There’s likely always been “too much” of an atmosphere.

      • Poit,

        Here are mass estimates for Venus’ atmosphere and Earth’s atmosphere and oceans:

        Mass of V atmsp: 4.8 × 10^20 kg
        Mass of E atmsp: 5.3 × 10^18 kg
        Mass of E ocean: 1.4 × 10^21 kg

        Thus, Earth’s oceans alone are almost three times as massive as Venus’ atmosphere, which is indeed a lot more massive than Earth’s.

  2. That close in, there might be tidal lock and very slow rotation periods. How that would affect climate I don’t know.

    • There is definitely tidal lock.

      The climatic effects would depend upon atmospheric circulation, if any. The dark side might not be too frigid for life if “air” from the light side regularly passed over it.

      • Tidal lock means the ocean boils away on the Sun-facing side (until solar energy falls to lower level – say 400 W/m2 – now the goldilocks zone is actually farther out than assumed). Less than that and the oceans boil away and you have a big thick atmosphere and it gets even hotter and every volatile in the crust also gets boiled away and the atmosphere becomes even thicker again.

        This is what happened to Venus regardless of what the climate scientists like to pretend. Venus’ slow rotation rate means the oceans never made it past the first sunrise and sunset of the first day (or at least, the oceans boiled away whenever the rotation became slow enough – there are two explanations for the slow rotation, an impactor hit Venus just like the one that hit Earth in the moon creation event or resonance with the Sun’s gravity slowed it down).

      • with its axis of ration at 177 degrees to the orbital plane ( ie it’s spinning the wrong way ) I would have thought that impact was the more likely option.

      • Bill,

        The star is so cool that some of the outer planets could have liquid water on their surfaces. Can’t yet know for sure one way or the other.

  3. Trying to understand the necessary conditions for life from a known sample of N = 1?
    The Drake equation is not science.

    It’s a fund-raising scheme.

    So let people guess whatever they want to raise their funds. It doesn’t just need to raise funds to fund science, after all.
    It can fund Climatology instead.

    • Assuming an atmosphere and its composition is only a little farther out there than the assumptions made in GCMs for earth.

      Assume an atmosphere…

    • The Drake equation is not science.

      Agreed. Also it is possible that some of the properties that make Earth capable of hosting life at this time might have originated in an accidental impact with another planet early on. If this is true, then only certain planets with a particular collision history might host life and that could be a very reduced subsample.

      Earth might not be your typical rocky planet.

      • Our moon is exceptional as well – there have been theories of life that depended on tidal mixing of ocean and atmosphere.

    • The Drake “Equation” is neither science nor math. It’s more properly referred to as the Drake Cocktail Napkin Doodle.

      • There is nothing wrong with the Drake Equation as a concept. It’s when you start to fill in (guess) the numbers that you get into trouble. Current exoplanet searches are helping to narrow down a couple of the parameters, but it’s a long, long, way to go.

    • I have to agree. The assumptions are staggeringly terracentric. IF they have the same composition as our planetary system and IF they have liquid water they might have life similar to our own. How can we possibly know that they don’t have life completely alien to our own conception? The simplest proven possibility are Microbes deep in the crust fueled by internal volcanic activity. That exists on our own planet, and aren’t even considered as a possibility in this.

      I’m reminded of early science fiction believing that all aliens would resemble humans.

      • You do realize that the purpose of the Drake Equation was specifically an exercise in trying to figure out how many civilizations “like us” there might be? It’s supposed to be terracentric.

  4. This is a failure of imagination. You can’t write the rules for life on a planet of which you know nothing.

  5. “The outer three planets, he adds, “fall beyond the maximum CO2 greenhouse outer edge of the habitable zone” and will have entered a lifeless snowball state.”

    It’s sure a good thing that dynamos spontaneously generate themselves inside of nearly every celestial orb, no matter what its composition.

  6. They can’t even model the planet they live on, but planets 34 light years away are no problem?

  7. Thus if water ever existed on the inner planets, they would have undergone a runaway greenhouse and lost their water to space, leaving them dry today.

    Ah, yes, that explains why Venus is a dry arid waste and Mars is a lush tropical paradise.

    I still hold out hope for life on moons of Jupiter and Saturn. link

    • Venus’ atmosphere is not hot enough for water to directly be lost to space. The upper Venus atmosphere is much cooler than the surface. Venus lost its atmosphere because it has no magnetic field to protect it from solar wind. UV ionized the water molecule and the hydrogen escaped, leaving behind oxygen to react with surface rocks. Same would have occurred on Earth without our magnetic field.

      • So maybe a pertinent question would be whether any of these planets have a magnetic field or not. If they were/are tidally locked could they even develop a magnetic field?

      • “Venus lost its atmosphere”. I think you meant Venus lost it’s water (if it ever had any)? Venus has a rather thick atmosphere, just not one we’d like to breathe.

  8. Good Grief! I saw the original news reports a few weeks when the discovery was announced and thought that was pretty cool how Kepler can make these discoveries at such a distance. The science is generally there, either through measuring the periodic dimming light of the star, or being able to measure the barrycentric wobble of the mother star by the planets’ orbits tugging gravitationaly on the star.

    But then I saw some science articles similar to the ones in the essay, apparently identifying atmospheric composition on the different planets and other such rubbish. I really started thinking that maybe there is just too many graduate students having to publish or perish. If this is what Academia has come to with things like climate change funding for research facilities, then we are in heap load of trouble.

    This is what happened in earnest about the time Al Gore made his ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ about CO2 now being the new driver of global warming and climate change. While maybe the aliens won’t be invading anytime soon, it is a wake up call on how quickly science can slide into the gutter and ultimately be disservice to science by allowing such poor oversight on how academic scientific research is actually done through funding. Perhaps it is time to identify which institutions are promoting the claptrap and limit their funding so as only the best hypothesis are elaborated on.

    • They can infer a lot from the Kepler data… and it’s really cool. They have identified lots of evidence for exoplanets. But, these articles are written as if the planets have actually been surveyed with direct observations.

      • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to be launched in October/18 will be located near the Earth–Sun L2 point a million miles out. It may be a real game changer for actual planet viewing with a mirror at 7.9 M compared to Hubble’s 2.4 M mirror. Then just maybe we will get some real atmosphere data. What an exciting time it is to be alive in the science era…climate bs notwithstanding.

      • The exoplanets have not been directly observed.

        The anomalies identified by Kepler are consistent with the presence of exoplanets. The exoplanets are inferred from indirect observations in an anaolgous manner that oil and gas accumulations are inferred from seismic amplitude anomalies.

      • All of which raises an interesting philosophical question which is what counts as a direct observation? Is looking through a microscope a direct observation? What about an electron microscope? Or an atomic force microscope? Similarly when Galileo first used a telescope he had to persuade people that what they were seeing was real and a “direct observation”.

        Also does it matter whether or not it is a direct or indirect observation?

      • Visual magnification is a direct observation. Electromagnetic detection is an indirect observation.

      • Exoplanet TRAPPIST 1e was found by using the transit method, in which the dimming effect that a planet causes as it crosses in front of its star is measured.

        The exoplanet system TRAPPIST-1 is named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, an infrared instrument that trails Earth as it orbits the sun (like Kepler), confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

      • What is the difference between visual and electromagnetic detection? Light is an
        electromagnetic wave? What about an IR camera? Is that direct or indirect?

      • By electromagnetic detection, i meant the detection of an anomaly caused by something that you can’t see, touch or directly examine… An indirect observation.

        I should have phrased it differently.

        An X-ray and MRI images are indirect observations through direct imaging. A biopsy is a direct observation.

        An amplitude extraction of a seismic horizon is an indirect observation of a rock formation through direct imaging. A well drilled through that formation is a direct observation.

  9. “…microbes might be migrating between several of them.”

    Microbe space travel would provide plenty of opportunity for exposure to damaging radiation which could cause arriving microbes to have beneficial mutation. That is a real two-fer to help the timeline and support the over all paradigm. Unless it kills them or causes them to die. That would be a real set back for the timeline and the paradigm.

  10. I love how they had to put CO2 as the main driver of these exoplanet temperatures.

    Wouldn’t a tidal locked planet have a hot side where water would evaporate and a cold side where water would freeze, with a band of twilight that stayed very much liquid? The next requirement would be a strong magnetosphere to prevent the atmosphere from being blown away by any solar wind. Who really knows what interactions would come from this cool dwarf star’s emissions and an atmosphere of a planet?

    • Answer:

      No one can know. Yet.

      Given seven planets around a cool star, the inner ones might be as you describe, with maybe two outer ones with liquid water even on the hot side and the outermost one with ice. But all we can do now is speculate. That is, model assumptions.

    • “I love how they had to put CO2 as the main driver of these exoplanet temperatures”

      What I want to know is how anthropogenic CO2 got onto those planets ! ;-)

      We know that is the only type of CO2 that causes global warting/climate-chang/disrumption, pants dying, smaller annuals, etc etc etc etc

      • “What I want to know is how anthropogenic CO2 got onto those planets ! ;-)”

        They just “assumed” it , that is why it is anthropogenic CO2. Pretty much the way they ASSUME CO2 causes the majority of warming and then create models based on tweaking dozens of other poorly constrained parameters to support that assumption.

  11. Everyone is so obsessed with “discovering” the first extraterrestrial life that they are willing to postulate any and all hypothesis to ‘prove’ that life exists, or if it doesn’t exist that it might exist, or, if it might have existed it could have (or will soon). Way too much ego showing here trying to be ‘first’.

    • err no.
      Its about developing the tools to focus the search for intelligent life.

      Example. They learn where not to look…. like dont look for intelligent life in NW sage’s house

      • “like dont look for intelligent life in NW sage’s house”

        Or anywhere even marginally related to Mosher and his colleagues.

  12. I believe that planet e (the favored one) has a density considerably less than Earth’s. This suggests either no metallic core (thus no magnetic field, leaving the atmosphere subject to stripping by solar wind), and/or a very high proportion of water. Takes more than just temperature and water to support life.

    • TRAPPIST-1e is an Earth-sized exoplanet, meaning it has a mass and radius close to that of Earth. It has an equilibrium temperature of 251.3 K (−22 °C; −7 °F), which is close to Earth’s equilibrium temperature. It has a radius of around 0.92 R⊕ and a mass of 0.62 M⊕. These values allow to estimate the standard gravity to be 7.22 m/s2 (74% of Earth value). It also has a similar density to Earth.

      • I guess I need to read up on these observations but how the hell do you get density with mass 0.62 (± 0.58) 7 times more than the star and a radius 8 times more than the star so how do you get it to within 5%?

      • ..WRONG, size does not matter, mass and composition matter ( and distance from the local star) inner metallic core is necessary for a magnetic field, which is necessary for life to survive.. IMHO

      • Robert,

        The star is about 84 times more massive than Jupiter. The planet e is some 62% as massive as Earth.

      • Butch,

        We can’t be sure that a strong magnetic field is necessary for life, which can live in a planetary crust as well as on its surface, where a magnetic field does help shield it.

      • Scarlet,

        Because the star and its planets were discovered through the transit method, we have mass and radius information for all of them.

      • My bad. Hard to see the different subscripts in the Wikipedia link.
        There still is the problem of the error in the mass or did I miss something? Its quite large and how do you get to measure such a dark object at that distance to within 5% but not mass? I would have thought that the latter was easier.

  13. Mark Twain made some pertinent observations on the the capacity of scientists to speculate endlessly on the basis of very little evidence. Since his time the situation appears to have worsened.

    • But Twain, in classic form, might make the updated observation, “It appears the capacity of scientists is now greatly improved”.

  14. If the climate modelers say there’s no life, they planets are probably teeming with it given their track record for Earth.

  15. All this importance placed on science education and its just so the next generation respond to “some scientists think” without any further thought. Its so wrong.

  16. Well, this is all interesting speculation. True classic science: Theory, experimental hypothesis therefrom derived, confirming/disconfitming experiments, rinse and repeat. This stuff, not so much. Computer models are NEVER observational experiments

    • They clearly make a falsifiable prediction about the possibility of water on the three inner planets.
      go there and disprove the prediction.
      we wont wait.

  17. “Thus if water ever existed on the inner planets, they would have undergone a runaway greenhouse and lost their water to space, leaving them dry today.”

    Allow me to quote a great American Genera……” N.U.T.S ! ”

    • Are those the the guys who did the hilarious skit about an oil spill? I think it went like this: The spill didn’t affect the environment because we towed the tanker out of the environment.

    • Not actually funny because it brushes over the waste – the problems of government owned meant extremely underworked and overpaid employees. The market is hardly free. Coal would be king and renewables would just be hydro if it really were free.

  18. There appears to be a technical problem with the title. There is only one “Solar System”, namely our planetary system whose central star has the Latin name “Sol” (in English – Sun), hence our planetary system is known as the solar system. What you are describing is a yet-to-be-named planetary system.

    From Wikipedia:

    A planetary system is a set of gravitationally bound non-stellar objects in orbit around a star or star system. … The Sun together with its planetary system, which includes Earth, is known as the Solar System.

  19. Question: How many solar systems are in our galaxy?
    Answer: Who knows?

    Question: How many Solar systems are in our galaxy?
    Answer: One

    As you pointed out, it is capitalized in the title.

    • I’d rather have NASA spend its budget looking for life on orher planets than disrupting life on this planet.

  20. There’s at least 1 good dystopian science fiction movie somewhere in these Trappist planets.

    • Personally I think the phrase “good dystopian science fiction” needs to be retired for ten or twenty years to give the subgenre a bit of a rest, given that it’s done a bit of a “Blob act” and slimed over the rest of the market.

  21. At least.

    Seven worlds, each more dystopian than the last, for a modern-day Gulliver’s Travels. Although he also visited the real world of Japan, which in the 18th century wasn’t all that dystopian, but not well known to the outside world, either.

  22. “Fermi Paradox”

    The great man responsible for the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction said it best, back in the late 30’s: “Where is everybody?” If there is other intelligent life in our maybe 13.8 Billion Year Old universe, how has our 4.5 Billion Year Old planet not been visited? If interstellar travel is possible, it would have happened in over 9 Billion years, somewhere, and, where are they?

    Riddle me that Batman, including you Professor Brown, never answered the question the first time I asked you. And, did you or your kin attend South Cary Elementary in North Carolina when I was there? Is Charles Brown a relative?

    • how has our 4.5 Billion Year Old planet not been visited?

      why are you assuming that it hasn’t?

  23. How about if Eric Wolf from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, would try checking the model performance in Earth reality first?

    Then the solar system has also plenty of interesting mysteries to explore. According to still a slightly more credible publicly funded source, NASA, planet Mercury has ice, Venus is dry and Mars has frozen carbon dioxide.

  24. This article is just another indication of the CO2 insanity cult that has deeply infected all of academia, and seemingly most ‘science’. I hope those affected can be deprogammed eventually.

  25. “It seems to me that this would be analogous to oil companies booking reserves on the basis of high-quality seismic hydrocarbon indicators, without ever drilling them.”

    I would suggest that the probability of proving oil or gas given high quality seismic is better than 1 in 10. I would put the probability of a life sustaining planet given current info at about 1 in 10,000 or much worse. Hardly a fair comparison. Indeed, an analogy that does disservice to seismologists everywhere.

    • It can be as good as 5 in 10… But proved reserves are p90 numbers. Anything less than 9 in 10 doesn’t make the cut… ;)

  26. Ah models, I loved this bit “Thus if water ever existed on the inner planets, they would have undergone a runaway greenhouse and lost their water to space, leaving them dry today.”.

    In other words model twaddle! I wish I could be paid to make sheet up…

  27. David Middleton wrote “The exoplanets are inferred from indirect observations.” and I’m unsure exactly what the problem with that is. It would appear to be a point for the philosophers to agonize over more than practical scientists. If we are to restrict ‘observations’ to those reported solely by the detectors which happen to be organic and stuck to the front of our faces with no intervening hardware or software then Galileo’s shadows on the cave wall are beginning to look pretty wobbly.

    • It’s simply correctly expressing the confidence levels and natures of different types of observations in a scientific manner.

  28. There are so many unknowns it is pure speculation at this point what will be found on these planets. In that it seems probable that close rotating plants like the moons of Jupiter will be tidally locked. With one side always facing the star if that is the case, it will make for an interesting climate. Moreover being so close to the star it is a question of what levels of radiation will bathe the planets. Early stellar development of such stars is said to be rather violent and may well have ripped off the atmosphere off these close planets.

    The nature of ultra-cool star systems is a only recently pondered phenomena. Hopefully the Webb Space telescope that is scheduled to be launched next year may add some additional information on this interesting system.

    • Steve,

      It’s not a matter of questioning the methods of detection. They clearly have identified 100’s of anomalies which are consistent with exoplanets. They can even infer some coarse details about the size, density and atmospheres of these anomalies. I have little doubt that, if we could fly a space probe through the Trappist-1 system, many, if not most, of these anomalies would be confirmed as planets.

      My observation is that when they announce that they have confirmed the discoveries of exoplanets, it is analogous to an oil company saying they’ve confirmed an oil discovery on the basis of high-grading a seismic amplitude anomaly… without ever drilling a well.

      These are all observations consistent with hydrocarbon accumulations:

      Only the bottom two images are confirmations of hydrocarbon accumulations. The top two are high quality direct hydrocarbon indicators… Anomalies consistent with hydrocarbon accumulations, excellent oil and gas prospects. At best, this is where exoplanet detection is today.

      When exoplanet detection gets to the level of the bottom two images, they will have confirmed the discovery of exoplanets. Right now they have a large portfolio of excellent prospects.

    • “My observation is that when they announce that they have confirmed the discoveries of exoplanets, it is analogous to an oil company saying they’ve confirmed an oil discovery on the basis of high-grading a seismic amplitude anomaly… without ever drilling a well.”

      Err no. it is not vaguely analogous.

      The process is called inference to the best explanation.

      There isnt anyone I know doing this work that would characterize it as a confirmed discovery. That’s your straw man.
      There isnt any one of them that would accept your analogy.

      It is what it is. An Inference to the best explanation. The way you question it, is not by Analogy.
      the scientific way to question it is to propose a different explanation.

      Until then, the inference to the best explanation is that these anomalies are caused by planets.

      • I think I questioning how these discoveries are characterized by the media rather than by the scientists.

    • By your analogy dave, the moon wasnt discovered until we brought back rocks.. and the sun? still not discovered.. its only signals in various spectrum. you need a bottle of plasma.

      Read Quine. Two dogmas of empiricism

      • We didn’t need to discover the Moon. We could see it with the naked eye and directly measure it.

        When Pluto was discovered, it was a planet. As it was analyzed more closely, with greater knowledge about large objects in the Solar System, Pluto was re-categorized as a Trans-Neptunian Object. Closer examination of these exoplanets will probably reveal that some of them aren’t planets.

        Since we will not be flying space probes through the Trappist-1 system or any other solar systems apart from our own, I suppose my objection to calling these confirmed discoveries of exoplanets is a bit pedantic, if not pointless.

  29. This is so sad. You know I bet if these guys had happier models that showed life might exist on all the planets, they would be much happier in their jobs and their lives. Maybe someone can help them come up with happier models and make the world a better place for them and us. Since it’s all science fiction anyway….Be Happy!!!

  30. Just more catastrophic climate fantasy.

    Fantasy that matches prior illusions painted by the climate faithful in their dark dreams.

    From the paper: <a href="Assessing the Habitability of the TRAPPIST-1 System Using a 3D Climate Model"

    “TRAPPIST-1 is quite cool, with an effective temperature of only ~2560 K. Thus its emitted stellar radiation is shifted towards the near infrared compared with our Sun. This shift affects radiative interactions in the atmosphere and with the surface (Shields et al. 2013). With these characteristics of the star-planet system in mind, we conduct 3D climate calculations for planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system assuming atmospheres comprised of N2, CO2, and H2O, following the traditional assumptions for terrestrial planetary atmospheres within the habitable zone”

    Forget large quantities of ultra-violet sunshine; instead there will be large quantities of infrared and red light.

    Now, how do those infra-red atmospheric absorption frequencies work on incoming dwarf starlight?

    Every thing known about the planets themselves are assumptions. Assumptions that make many of the current climate assumptions seem almost real.

    “TRAPPIST-1 system assuming atmospheres comprised of N2, CO2, and H2O, following the traditional assumptions for terrestrial planetary atmospheres within the habitable zone”

    Isn’t amazing that Colorado Edu. teaches their researchers to automatically assume a planet is inhabited by Earth type carbon based life? Skip all of the pre-life atmospheric stages and go directly home.

    Yes, home! Their pallid attempt at modeling Earth by pretending a distant solar system is just like Earth; with Earth dooms as predicted by the rabidly devoted climate delusional.

  31. It’s only logical, really, … forecasting climate for invisible planets.

    Hey, if you can’t go there, then you really can’t prove our models wrong, even though they are wrong on the planet that you CAN go to.

    . . . another indicator of the value of climate models, … as science fiction,

  32. The tendency to approach the unknown with a great deal of certainty says something really important, but I’m not sure if it’s about optimism or something entirely less flattering.

  33. “he made the assumption that the seven planets are – or had once been – ocean-covered, with atmospheres comprising nitrogen, carbon-dioxide and water vapour.”

    I find it interesting that the name TRAPPEST-1 is used, as the Miller-Urey experiment showed that amino acids could not derive from simple atmospheric gasses unless TRAPS are used to separate amino acids produced from destructive tars also produced in the experiment.


    • Miller, S.L., Production of some organic compounds under possible primitive earth conditions, J. American Chemical Society 77:2351–2361, 1955.



      Telescope located in Chile’s Atacama Desert region.

      Miller-Urey is mainly of historical interest now. All the component complex compounds of living things have been shown both to occur in space, delivered to earth on meteorites, and/or readily to self-assemble under Hadean and Archean Eon earth conditions, which are now known much better than in the 1950s, when incorrect assumptions were made about the early atmosphere.


        Loaded with amino and nucelic acids and lots of other organic compound constituents of the complex chemicals of life. Ditto other meteorites. Organic compounds are also observed in space.

        As for home cooking here on earth from simpler chemicals, nuthin’ says livin’ like the goodies coming from the Sutherland lab and others around the world:

        Common origins of RNA, protein and lipid precursors in a cyanosulfidic protometabolism

      • Chimp, from your Nature link:

        “Common origins of RNA, protein and lipid precursors in a cyanosulfidic protometabolism”

        was the title, but:

        “We show that precursors of ribonucleotides, amino acids and lipids can all be derived by the reductive homologation of ​hydrogen cyanide and some of its derivatives,….”

        was the text.

        The authors only derived precursors of ribonucleotides, which themselves are merely precursors of RNA. So, they derived precursors of precursors. That is 2 orders of magnitude below RNA.

        The authors also only derived precursors of amino acids, which are precursors of proteins. Precursors of precursors, 2 orders of magnitude short of proteins as well.

        You might as well claim that the Earth is about to go BOOM in a nuclear explosion because uranium is a precursor to a nuclear bomb…


      • Chimp March 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm:
        “earth conditions, which are now known much better than in the 1950s, when incorrect assumptions were made about the early atmosphere.”

        Mitch, please list the current assumptions about Earth’s early atmosphere compared to those incorrect assumption of the ’50s.

        By the way, Miller-Urey experiment as published did NOT employ the standard assumption of the ’50s for the Earth’s early atmosphere because they had already determined that no amino acid could be derived from it. Ammonia gas was added to enable formation of organic compounds even though it was understood to be a product of the biosphere, not a precursor. That is why their title included the phrase “possible primitive earth conditions”


      • Chimp March 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm

        Loaded with amino and nucelic acids and lots of other organic compound constituents of the complex chemicals of life. Ditto other meteorites. Organic compounds are also observed in space.

        I didn’t want to neglect this claim lest I leave the impression you were on to something.

        In order for his hypothesis to be viable, Urey stated the concentration of favorable organic compounds in the early oceans would need to about 10%. This level of organic compounds is 100 times more concentrated than city sewage before treatment. For meteorites to deliver organic compounds in the quantities needed for even a fraction of the concentration Urey stated was needed would have required
        a level of bombardment that would have boiled the early oceans, and we all know what boiling does to amino acids…


      • Stevan,

        Meteorites could easily have delivered all the constituent compounds needed for life on earth, but the fact is that they need not have done so, since the same chemicals were made in our own ancient oceans from less complex organic compounds.

        Nucleobases abound in meteorites. Stitching them together with ribose sugars has been show to be an ordinary, every second occurrence in Hadean oceans. The phosphate backbone reaction is catalyzed by PAHs, vast armadas of which exist in interstellar space.

        Both ET bombardment and local production of all the constituents of life made then abundant on the early Earth.

      • Stevan Reddish March 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        As I already pointed out, Miller-Urey doesn’t matter. It’s interesting in that it shows how easy it is to create complex organic molecules from simpler compounds, but today that’s not surprising, since we see so many amino acids and other big molecules in interstellar space.

      • Chimp March 23, 2017 at 7:19 pm

        As I already pointed out, Miller-Urey doesn’t matter. It’s interesting in that it shows how easy it is to create complex organic molecules from simpler compounds,…

        Chimp, I started this sub-thread by pointing out that the Miller-Urey experiment had to employ traps to separate amino acids produced from destructive tars also produced. (This is relevant to the statement in the posted article that it is assumed that life would arise from simple atmospheric compounds.) My point about the traps is that any amino acids produced in nature by the mechanism proposed by Urey would have been destroyed by tars also produced as they would not be immediately separated as in the lab experiment. My ultimate point was that the the Miller-Urey experiment actually showed that amino acids, and thus proteins, could NOT easily arise naturally from a simple early atmosphere.

        You initially concurred, with the caveat that incorrect assumptions were made in the 1950’s about the early atmosphere. So, how can you now say that Miller-Urey showed how easy it is to create complex organic molecules from simpler compounds??


      • Chimp March 23, 2017 at 7:17 pm

        Meteorites could easily have delivered all the constituent compounds needed for life on earth, but the fact is that they need not have done so, since the same chemicals were made in our own ancient oceans from less complex organic compounds.

        Chimp, your links don’t support your claims.

        Your NASA link has the note: “Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information”

        I already pointed out the failure of your “Common origins of RNA, protein and lipid precursors in a cyanosulfidic protometabolism” link in my response here: Stevan Reddish March 22, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      • Stevan,

        Sure they do.

        That the link isn’t updated doesn’t mean its information isn’t valid.

        There are lots of other links with info on the Murchison Meteorite available, such as this one:

        I don’t know why the other link to the Nature article didn’t work. Here’s a pdf version:

        Sorry, but it’s a scientific fact that all the biochemical constituents of life either arrive here from space, readily self-assemble in aqueous solution or both.

      • Precursors of life are so ubiquitous in the universe that a “soft” form of panspermia seems ever more plausible:

        Meteorite-catalyzed synthesis of nucleosides and other prebiotic compounds

        The rapidity with which life arose on earth, as shown by recent discoveries, tends to support this hypothesis.

  34. All I know is there’s lots of bad dudes around continually trying to disprove that science is settled-

    “This is a huge, major hypothesis, and one that could require the rewriting of any textbooks that discuss paleontology, but that doesn’t mean it’s fully accepted yet. It will be some time before the paleontology community comes to a conclusion on whether or not the full family tree should be re-evaluated, and there may be changes in the ways that certain groups are divided along the way.”

    And this is most unsettling for settled science and scientists.

    • Whether theropods are more closely related to sauropods or ornithischians is of interest only to paleontologists. It doesn’t change the fact that dinosaurs arose in the Triassic from a pool of closely related, bipedal omnivores or carnivores.

      My personal opinion is that Herrarasaurids lie just outside Dinosauria. They lack the open acetabulum, for instance, otherwise diagnostic of dinosaurs. Others have seen them as basal saurischians or theropods. Their teeth IMO clearly show them to be carnivores, not omnivores, as in this revisionist survey.

  35. David Middleton said: “The direct imaging is not direct observation. A direct hydrocarbon indicator is direct seismic imaging of an oil or gas reservoir. It is not a direct observation of the reservoir. Only a drillbit can enable direct observation of the reservoir.”

    This is really a bit silliness. I defer to your experience as a petro-geologist, but I have a hard time trying to swallow the idea that just because I can SEE the cake on the table, I haven’t directly “observed” the cake until my fork takes a chunk out of it & I put it in my mouth & start chewing. If you want to say “Unless you touch it, it’s not direct” that’s fine for you, but for the rest of us mere mortals, simply seeing the light directly reflected from the object itself is direct enough.

    Again, deferring to your technical experience (& not sarcastically at all), perhaps it is true that the presence or absence of what might colloquially be termed “oil” cannot be confirmed from the evidence available in your example of seismic “imagery” (not “actual” imagery, but a visual representation of an interpretation of seismic data derived from seismological instruments). However, astronomers don’t need to land on Mercury (e.g.) to have observed it directly, nor do our observations of exoplanets rely solely on “inferred” data. And while it is true that most of them have not been directly imaged (TRAPPIST included), nevertheless the light from them (whether reflected or emitted) in many cases HAS been directly detected, confirmed & quantified, even if our ability to resolve them separately from their stars is still beyond our capability in most (but not all!) cases.

    For example, from the following video, which is an interview with the scientists which confirmed that water exists on 51 Pegasi b, Jayne Birkby (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) makes a similar but more useful distinction than yours when she says: “So this is a direct detection of this planet: we’re not inferring it from what the star is doing; it’s a direct detection, but we do it spectrally, rather than in imaging.” (bold emphasis mine) In other words, they are able to separate the light of the planet itself from the light received directly from the star. The planet is thus directly detected, whether or not they can properly resolve a visible light image of it… let alone stick a drill bit it.

    ( | quoted material begins at 35:19, segment in which direct imaging vs. direct detection discussion begins 34:31)

    • As I replyed to Steve Mosher, my objection is a bit pedantic, if not pointless, because we won’t be flying a space probe through the Trappist-1 system in any of our lifetimes.

      • Speak for yourself, Sir! I intend to live forever. ~_^

        Thanks for your many fine posts, this one among them.

    • Your cake analogy misses the mark. If you can see the cake, you don’t have to discover it.

      Regarding your quoted passage, the direct spectral detection of exoplanets is analogous to the direct seismic detection of hydrocarbons. The seismic detection of hydrocarbons is not a confirmed discovery of hydrocarbons. Direct hydrocarbon indicators occasionally lead to dry holes.

      Flying a probe through the Trappist-1 system would be analogous to drilling a well. Since we won’t be flying a apace probe there in our lifetimes, these exoplanets are about as confirmed as they will ever get.

  36. Even in our solar system until a few years ago it seemed that life could be an exclusive on the planet Earth. Today with space exploration, we do know that there are many unexpected places where microbial life could exist (Mars, Europa, Enceladus), however it is difficult to have the evidence.
    TRAPPIST 1 is very close, on an astronomical scale, but still far increbibilmente to humans. So it’s even more difficult to have data to see if there is life. The climate simulations are important but only one path to follow, we will have the evidence definitife by direct observation. So we have to wait 2018 and 2024, when it will become operational JWST (NASA) and E-ELT (ESA), which will be able to study the atmosphere of these planets and determine if there are gases that can be produced only by forms of life.

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