Planet with signs of water in atmosphere found by scientists

World Thursday 12/September/2019 14:19 PM
By: Times News Service
Planet with signs of water in atmosphere found by scientists
London: A little known planet that is about 110-light-years away from our solar system might be able to host life, a new study has found.

Astronomers at the Centre for Space Exochemistry Data at the University College London (UCL) detected water vapour in the atmosphere of the K2-18b "exoplanet," a planet outside our solar system, between the mass of Earth and Neptune, that also has the right temperatures that could support life.

"Finding water on a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting," Angelos Tsiaras, study author and research associate at the centre said in a press release on Wednesday.

The team used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to find water vapour in the atmosphere of K2-18b, by analysing starlight filtered through the exoplanet's atmosphere. The report was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday.

The team of scientists also discovered that K2-18b has a mass eight times greater's than on planet Earth, which implies that the surface gravity of the planet would be eight times higher than the one on our planet.

"K2-18b is not 'Earth 2.0' as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?", Tsiaras said.

K2-18b orbits the dwarf star K2-18 in the Leo constellation, given the high level of activity of its star, K2-18b may be more hostile than Earth and is likely to be exposed to more radiation, NASA said.

"The planet is located in a system more than a hundred light-years away, meaning that whatever image we try to get is an image of the planet hundred years ago. The light takes only 7 to 8 minutes to come from the Sun to the Earth but 100 years to go to the planet. So for us to travel there is impossible," Tsiaras said.

K2-18b is one of the hundreds of "super-Earths" - planets with masses between those of Earth and Neptune- found by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. More than 4,000 exoplanets of all types and sizes have been detected overall.

NASA is expected to detect hundreds more super-Earths in the coming years.