First distant planet with water vapor in atmosphere detected

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 13, 2019

In the search for life outside our solar system an global team of researchers has gone a step forward: astronomers have discovered for the first Time, water vapor in the atmosphere of a distant planet, orbiting its star in the so-called habitable Zone.

The planet, known as K2-18b, is twice the size and eight times the mass of Earth, and 110 light-years away.

Another good news is the fact that the planet lies in the habitable zone of its star. And astronomers are uncertain whether the planet has a hard surface, or whether it is covered in water. The temperature on the planet is thought to be roughly 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), according to The Guardian, but that relatively balmy temperature doesn't mean K2-18b is conducive to human life.

There search in the space also detected signs of water vapour in the atmosphere and Earth-like temperatures that could potentially support life. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: "Is the Earth unique?" said Angelos Tsiaras, a researcher at the University College London's Centre for Space Exochemistry Data and the author of the study.

In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life.

They found the unmistakable signature of water vapour. Even a planet like K2-18b can be examined only with humanity's most sensitive space telescope - the Hubble.

The Exoplanet K2-18b was discovered in 2015 by the USA space telescope Kepler. The exoplanet completes one orbit around its sun every 33 days. This alien world has drawn the attention of astronomers from NASA after the researchers from the Center for Space Exochemistry Data at the University College London in the United Kingdom discovered it.

As the starlight filtered through the planet's atmosphere, some of it would be absorbed by the gases in the planet's air. The structural study of the planet shows that it is large enough to have its origin with Hyrodgen and Helium, but for the existence of life, the presence of other gases are yet to be confirmed. They believe that other molecules including nitrogen and methane may be present but, with current observations, they remain undetectable. It was one of the exoplanets that was discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope in 2015. This is a massive finding for scientists who have been looking for a habitable planet besides the earth.

More than 4,000 exoplanets of all types and sizes have been detected overall.

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