Space & Astronomy
Universe may be teeming with water-worlds
By T.K. Randall
August 18, 2018 · 7 comments
Many planets may be home to large amounts of water. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Luciano Mendez
Scientists have determined that a significant percentage of planets in our galaxy may be covered in water.
The discovery is important because is increases the likelihood of finding a world that supports life.
Out of the 4,000 or so planets discovered in recent years, most are either around 1.5 times the size of the Earth or 2.5 times the size, with the larger of the two being the most likely to have water.
The amount of water on these worlds was also surprising, with scientists discovering that many of them could be as much as 50% water by weight. (Earth by contrast is only 0.02% water.)
"It was a huge surprise to realise that there must be so many water-worlds," said study lead researcher and planetary scientist Dr Li Zeng from Harvard University.
The conditions on these worlds however may be quite unlike anything we see here on Earth.
"This is water, but not as commonly found here on Earth," said Zeng. "Their surface temperature is expected to be in the 200 to 500 degree Celsius range. Their surface may be shrouded in a water-vapor-dominated atmosphere, with a liquid water layer underneath."
With the launch of NASA's TESS mission, as well as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, it should be possible to take a much closer look at these worlds within the not-too-distant future.
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