Cosmos

Astronomers Find Water on Distant Alien World Which May Harbor Life

An artists illustration of exoplanet K2-18b and its star K2-18. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser.

A team of astronomers used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to detect, for the first time, water vapor in the atmosphere of a possibly rocky planet outside the solar system.

The alien world’s name is K2-18b, it is believed to be twice the size of the Earth, eight times its mass (which is why it is referred to as a super-earth) and is located 111 light-years away from us, orbiting a M-type red dwarf dubbed K2-18.

The discovery is of great importance.

The presence of water vapor was confirmed by two independent research studies that used data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The significant amount of water in its atmosphere represents the first such discovery for a planet within a star’s habitable zone.

The scientists used data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope between 2016 and 2017, which were then analyzed with algorithms. Specifically, they recorded the trace or shadow left by the light of their star when it crossed the atmosphere.

“The observations were recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope/Wide Field Camera 3 and analyzed with our dedicated, publicly available, algorithms,” explained researchers.

A promising exoplanet

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