'Water found for first time on potentially habitable explanet'

Water found on potentially habitable planet

Astronomers at the Center for Space Exochemistry Data at the University College London in the United Kingdom used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to find water vapor in the atmosphere of K2-18b, an exoplanet around a small red dwarf star about 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo.

The tenable zone is the locale around a star where temperatures are adequately considerate for water to exist in fluid-structure on the outside of a planet. "That means the surface gravity on this planet would be significantly higher than on our planet", reported NASA in a press release.

There search in the space also detected signs of water vapour in the atmosphere and Earth-like temperatures that could potentially support life.

In a conversation with WION, Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at UCL, shared insights on the presence of water on an Earth-like planet outside our solar system. This is the only planet known to scientists outside the Solar system where there is liquid water, and an acceptable temperature, that is, all the conditions for the emergence of life.

They found the unmistakable signature of water vapour. K2-18b is likely to be more hostile as it is exposed to more high-energy radiation.

When K2-18b was discovered in 2015, Tsiaras and his colleagues thought it would be a good candidate for a form of analysis called transit spectroscopy, which involves studying the changes in a star's light as a planet "transits", or passes in front of it. The exoplanet completes one orbit around its sun every 33 days. The life over this planet also depends on the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Water vapor was found in the atmosphere of K2-18b, one of hundreds of "super-Earths" - worlds ranging in size between Earth and Neptune - documented in a growing new field of astronomy devoted to the exploration of so-called exoplanets elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. The planet could have thick clouds, like Venus, that would heat its surface to an intolerable degree.

Tsiaras: The next step will be to use the James Webb Space Telescope, it will be able to give us a much better spectrum of the planet.

"It's got water in its air but it's nearly certainly got no surface ... where you could find that water pooling as a liquid in lakes and oceans, and that's of course, what we need for life, at least as far as we're aware", he said.

"Everything sort of suggests that the "water world" could be a very good explanation of this planet", she said, "But we're going to need more observations".

A NASA tally now lists more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets and another 4,000 potential candidates.

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