A group of Moroccan researchers from Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech have helped the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) make a new astronomical discovery.
Zouhair Benkhaldoun and Khalid Barkaoui from Morocco’s High Energy Physics and Astrophysics Laboratory (LPHEA) and the Oukaimeden Observatory, near Marrakech, co-published a paper with NASA scientists on the new discovery.
The research paper, titled “Refining the Transit-timing and Photometric Analysis of TRAPPIST-1: Masses, Radii, Densities, Dynamics, and Ephemerides,” appeared in The Planetary Science Journal on January 22.
The study revealed that the seven terrestrial planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 have similar densities.
Four of the planets were only discovered in February 2017, thanks to the work of astronomers at the Oukaimeden Observatory, which hosts one of only two Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescopes (TRAPPIST) in the world.
The new discovery by Moroccan and NASA scientists provides valuable insight into the composition of the terrestrial planets in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system.
The similar density of the planets provides an idea on the ratio of the elements composing them, such as iron, oxygen, magnesium, and silicon, the paper’s authors argued.
Data on the density of the planets also allows for comparisons between their composition and that of planet Earth.
Since the discovery of TRAPPIST-1 — located about 40 lightyears from our sun — and its orbiting planets, astronomers have thoroughly studied the solar system, in the hopes of reaching a better understanding of the composition of its planets.
The recently-published discovery represents an important scientific breakthrough. Researchers used data from the Oukaimeden Observatory, as well as from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and the recently-retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
Space telescopes are a type of observatories located in outer space. The Oukaimeden Observatory was the only telescope on the Earth’s surface that contributed to the discovery.