Researchers found water vapors on Exoplanet K2-18b, (111 light-years away from Earth) an alien world where climate might be suitable for life.
For the first time, beyond our solar system astronomer have found water vapors and clouds in the atmosphere of an exoplanet K2-18 b where the temperature may be perfect for life.
Exoplanet K2-18b is like a super-Earth that’s twice the size of the Earth with eight times mass and it is 111 light-years away from our planet earth (1 light year = 9.5 trillion kilometers). Exoplanet K2-18b was discovered in 2015 by NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. University College London researcher used archived data from the telescope and developed an open-source algorithm to analyze the K2-18b atmosphere. They published their finding in Nature Astronomy on September 11.
“Finding water in a potentially habitable world brings us closer to the answer to the fundamental question: is the Earth unique?” Angelos Tsiaras, University of London University and co-author of the study congratulated.
The observations of the Hubble Space Telescope made between 2016 and 2017 “allowed us to discover that the planet has an atmosphere and that it contains water vapor” he told.
“You cannot conclude that there is liquid water on the surface of the exoplanet K2-18b but I think it is very possible,” said astrophysics, also at University College London.
The planet, called K2-18b, is also located in the “habitable zone” of its red star like our sun, that is, neither too far nor too close to its source of heat. It is there where the temperature allows the water to exist in a liquid state, which could allow the development of life as we know it. It, therefore, has a temperature similar to that of Earth.
And the adventure with the K2-18b is not over yet: it remains to determine the amount of water vapor present in the atmosphere, the presence or not of evidence of organic chemistry, oxygen, and ozone.
“For now, the only planet we know that harbors life is Earth. But this does not mean that to be habitable, a planet must be by force exactly like this one, “according to the researcher.
Scientists have used a technique known as transit spectroscopy, which analyzes the light that filters through the atmosphere when the planet passes in front of its star for traces of chemical elements.
With that system, researchers have found strong evidence of the presence of water vapor and also suggest that there could be a significant amount of hydrogen in the atmosphere.