Space & Astronomy
Water vapor discovered on extrasolar planet
By T.K. Randall
September 11, 2019 · 11 comments
Could there be life on K2-18b ? Image Credit: ESA / UCL
Water vapor has been identified on what is being hailed as the most habitable exoplanet found to date.
In an announcement earlier today, astronomers from University College London revealed the discovery of water vapor in the atmosphere of a 'super-Earth' planet 110 light years away.
Known simply as K2-18b, this distant world is twice the size of our own planet, has eight times the mass and orbits a red dwarf star with an orbital period of 33 days.
"This is the only planet outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water and has an atmosphere that has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now," said study lead author Angelos Tsiaras from University College London.
Despite the potential for habitability however, the planet is certainly no Earth 2.0.
Astronomers believe that K2-18b either has a dense rocky core and a thick atmosphere similar to Neptune or has a surface completely covered by a planet-wide ocean.
Determining which of these is true is likely going to require the services of the James Webb Space Telescope which won't be launching for another two years.
Until then, we can only speculate as to whether or not life might exist there.
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