Water found for first time on potentially habitable planet

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Astronomers have for the first-time discovered water in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star.

The finding makes the world – which is called K2-18b – a plausible candidate in the search for alien life.

The discovery published in Nature Astronomy, was described by the lead scientist, Prof Giovanna Tinetti of University College London (UCL) as “mind blowing”.

“This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is potentially compatible with the presence of life,” she said.

First Water Detected on Planet in the Habitable Zone
A handout photo made available by the European Space Agency (ESA) on 11 September 2019 shows an artist’s impression of the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. UCL researchers used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and developed open-source algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere. The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapour, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet?s atmosphere. EPA-EFE/ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser / HANDOUT 

Within 10 years, new space telescopes might be able to determine whether K2-18b’s atmosphere contains gases that could be produced by living organisms. K2-18b is 111 light-years from Earth, too far to send a probe. The only option is to wait for the next generation of space telescopes to be launched in the 2020s.




Via Nature Astronomy/BBC/ National Geographic

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