News

WATER FOUND IN ATMOSPHERE OF HABITABLE EXOPLANET

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topics: Science & Technology, Exoplanet

News

  • Astronomers have for the first time discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet with Earth-like temperatures that could support life as we know it.
  • The team used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope and developed open-source algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere.

Exoplanet K2-18b

  • According to the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System, or ‘exoplanet’, known to have both water and temperatures that could be potentially habitable.
  • The planet orbits the cool dwarf star K2-18, which is about 110 light years from Earth in the Leo constellation.
  • The discovery is the first successful atmospheric detection for an exoplanet orbiting in its star’s ‘habitable zone’, at a distance where water can exist in liquid form.
  • “K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition.

Importance of the Discovery

  • The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapour, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • The astronomers believe that other molecules including nitrogen and methane may be present but, with current observations, they remain undetectable.
  • Further studies will help in estimating cloud coverage and the percentage of atmospheric water present.

[Source: The Hindu, NASA]

 

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