Scientists find a "super earth" with WATER 110 light years away at the first discovery – and say it could have the conditions to sustain life
- Scientists say the planet is first outside our solar system that may be habitable
- University College London scientists have found water vapor on distant planet
- It is located 110 light-years away and has water, an atmosphere and the right temperature
Scientists have for the first time found a planet outside our solar system where there is water, in a major breakthrough in the search for habitable worlds.
Water vapor was discovered on a & # 39; super-earth & # 39; 110 light-year distances that are estimated to be twice as large as the earth and eight times the mass.
K2-18b also has an atmosphere and the right temperature range for living things, according to scientists from University College London.
It is closer to its star than the earth to the sun, meaning it has shorter years and completes its orbit in 33 days, while ours costs 365.
A computer-generated image has been released by UCL researchers to suggest what the potentially habitable planet looks like
The habitable zone is the range of orbits around a star in which a planet can support liquid water.
This habitable zone is also called the "Goldilocks" zone, derived from the children's fairy tale.
The temperature of the star should be & # 39; just right & # 39; so that liquid water can exist on the surface.
The boundaries of the habitable zone are critical.
If a planet is too close to its star, it will experience a runaway greenhouse effect, such as Venus.
But if it's too far, water will freeze, as seen on Mars.
Since the concept was first presented in 1953, many stars have been shown to have a Goldilocks region, and some of them have discovered one or more planets in this zone, such as & # 39; Kepler-186f & # 39 ;, in 2014.
The exoplanet was first noticed in 2015 by NASA & Kepler's spacecraft, but data analysis has revealed new details that had never been seen before.
Current equipment can only determine basic factors, such as how far away it is, the mass and the surface temperature.
But advanced tools developed at UCL have been able to translate data from the Hubble Space Telescope to gain insight into the unique molecular characteristics of water vapor.
K2-18b is too far away for astronomers to see, but they can see how starlight is filtered through the planet's atmosphere as it passes through its own sun, called K2-18.
& # 39; It is the only planet outside our solar system that we know has the right temperature, atmosphere and water & # 39 ;, said Dr. Angelos Tsiaras, the author of the study. & # 39;
The presence of water vapor in the planet's atmosphere suggests that it can be a rocky world or an icy world with lots of water in it.
Most other exoplanets such as these are gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn, so K2-18b provides a valuable opportunity for researchers to study smaller, rocky or icy planets.
& # 39; Of course, K2-18b is not a second earth, & # 39; added Dr. Tsiaras, & # 39; because it is a planet that is much larger and has a different atmospheric composition.
& # 39; Orbit is a completely different star, so it doesn't look like the Earth.
& # 39; The search for habitable planets, it is very exciting, but it is always here to remind us that this (the Earth) is our only home and it is likely that we cannot travel to other planets. & # 39;
Although the planet is in the habitable zone of its solar system, scientists say there is currently no way to determine if there are any signs of life.
Experts will continue to follow the planet to confirm their theory that it is able to sustain life, and they cannot know for sure how much water there is on the planet.
The researchers hope that newer technology, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in March 2021, can unlock more secrets outside our solar system
They said the water content could be as low as 0.01 percent or as high as 50 percent.
About 71 percent of the earth's surface is covered with water.
Dr. Ingo Waldmann, co-author of the study, added: & # 39; We do not know how much water there is; however, what these models clearly say is that there is an atmosphere and that there is water.
The scientists, who spent more than a year on their work before publishing it in the Nature Astronomy magazine, said they don't think K2-18b is the only planet of its kind.
They hope that newer technology, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in March 2021, can unlock more secrets outside our solar system.
& # 39; We look forward to the next generation of telescopes and go even further, & # 39; added Dr. Tsiaras.
Professor Giovanna Tinetti said: & # 39; Our discovery makes K2-18b one of the most interesting goals for future research. & # 39;
WHAT IS THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE AND HOW WILL IT UNDERSTAND OUR OTHER PLANETS?
The James Webb telescope has been described as a & # 39; time machine & # 39; it can help to unravel the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born more than 13.5 billion years ago in the early universe, and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The huge telescope, which has already cost more than $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion), is considered a successor to the revolving Hubble Space Telescope
The James Webb telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
Officials say the costs can be higher than the $ 8 billion (£ 5.6 billion) program cap that Congress has set. The space agency has already deposited $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion) in the telescope.
When launched in 2020, it will be the largest and most powerful telescope in the world, capable of looking back 200 million years after the big bang.
In January, the telescope was successfully tested in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Center – which proved that it will work in the deep space.
The telescope has tested cryogenically for 100 days, with the temperature falling hundreds of degrees below freezing to ensure that it functions in extreme cold.
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