AT the Astronomers of the Future Club meeting on October, 26 in Troon, former Chairman Duncan Lunan, who recently returned from Ireland, spoke on ‘Exoplanets’, particularly three star systems that have recently been making news. 

‘Tabby’s Star’, nicknamed after the discoverer of its odd behaviour, continues to show the strange dimmings which just might be due to huge structures being built around it by an advanced civilisation. 

There might be an undiscovered gas giant planet with a huge ring system (which would have to be very large indeed), or a disc of large particles, edge-on to us, warped by the pulls of undiscovered planets further out. 

But neither can explain the slow overall dimming of the star over the last hundred years, nor the star’s occasional brightenings.

The red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, named after the telescope which discovered it, is under intensive study because it’s been found to contain seven Earth-sized planets in a very compact system, three of them in the ‘ecosphere’ which could support life.

It used to be thought those would not be habitable, but more recent studies suggest they could be. 

Red dwarf stars are subject to huge flares which could strip the planets’ atmospheres away, as has happened tfffghho Mars for lack of a protective magnetic field like Earth’s; TRAPPIST-1 is more stable than most, but still generates flares as powerful as our Sun’s biggest, at 48-hour intervals. 

But just when the issue seemed to be settled, the Hubble Space Telescope found evidence that the three ecosphere planets of TRAPPIST-1 do indeed have surface water. 

It might be released by volcanic activity, though we wouldn’t expect so much of it on such old planets. Again, the plot thickens.

The next Astronomers of the Future Club lecture will be on Thursday November 30 at 7.15 p.m, at the R.S.A.S. Barassie Works Club on Shore Road, off West Portland Street in Troon, KA10 6AG. 

The speaker, financed by the Club’s grant from South Ayrshire Council, will be Dr. Nicholas Labrosse, Senior Lecturer, Physics and Astronomy, Glasgow University, speaking on ‘Solar Tornadoes’.