As a part of the years-long research, water on an exoplanet has been discovered by scientists at the University of College London (UCL). The exoplanet could be a potential super-Earth (a planet with mass lesser than the masses of ten Earths), hinting at the probability of life outside the solar system.
As per the research, an exoplanet (planets present outside the solar system) called K2-18b has traces of water. It is suggested that K2-18b is the first-ever exoplanet with water found on it. The presence of water makes it the “most habitable exoplanet known to us.”
As per the findings, the K2-18b exoplanet has water somewhere around 0.01% to 50% in the atmosphere.
“This is the only planet outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water and has an atmosphere that has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” said Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London.
The K2-18b exoplanet is twice the size of Earth and is eight times more massive. Also, it is 110 light-years away from us and rotates around a red dwarf star, which is half the size of the sun.
Recorded with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, the observations additionally hint at the presence of hydrogen in the atmosphere by using specific algorithms.
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The process included the observation of the light produced by the exoplanet’s host star and then finding out the signatures of the atmosphere.
How does a planet’s atmosphere decide life on it?
A planet’s atmosphere helps determine various factors such as the presence of oceans and surface on a planet, its structure, and evolution. It also tells whether or not it is capable of supporting life on it.
Why K2-18b can’t be a planet where we can live?
While the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere gives us an inkling of a possible life out in K2-18b, the exoplanet is not an ideal planet for us to live in because of its bigger mass.
The exoplanet’s mass gives rise to three theories: it either is a big ice-covered planet much like Neptune or has dense rocky surroundings. Additionally, it could have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere with just water all over.
Furthermore, it is argued that K2-18b is more of a super-Neptune than a super-Earth as its characteristics are reminiscent of Neptune than Earth.
As the data collected is part of the initial findings, more data collection can clear all the confusion about the prospective super-Earth.
For this, you have to stay tuned to this space, as we at Fossbytes will let you know of all the developments taking place.