According to the latest study, astronomers look closely into an exoplanet’s (a planet outside our solar system) atmosphere for the first time and find both temperature and water vapor that could feasible for life. The exoplanet, named as K2-18b have mass eight times higher than Earth, therefore known as a super-Earth or exoplanets between the Neptune and Earth mass. It orbits a red dwarf star, and it is away from Earth about 110 light-years in the Leo constellation. Kepler spacecraft of NASA first discovered the planet in 2015.
A research team used the data that the Hubble Space Telescope collected between 2016 & 2017 that took starlight as it passed through the exoplanet atmosphere. Furthermore, the researchers said that they obviously saw the sign of water vapor in the surrounding when they put the information through algorithms. Also, they detected the signs of helium and hydrogen in the atmosphere as these two are the richest elements in the universe.
The water vapor detection in this exoplanet’s atmosphere is mainly exciting to the researchers for the reason that the exoplanet also lies inside the habitable zone of its star, which contains the feasible temperatures for liquid water to exist on the planet atmosphere and possibly support the life as they understand it.
The Nature Astronomy Journal
The researchers printed their discoveries on Wednesday in the journal Nature Astronomy. The research associate and study author at the University College London’s Centre for Space Exochemistry Data, Angelos Tsiaras, said that discovering water in the possibly habitable world rather than Earth is amazingly exciting. Moreover, one cannot say K2-18b as an Earth 2.0 as it is considerably more massive and has a changed atmospheric composition. Though, it brings the scientist closer to answering the ultimate question, is our planet Earth unique?
Exoplanet rotation around its star
The exoplanet completes its single orbit around its star every 33 days. It is because it is much closer to its star than the distance of Earth to the sun. However, the red dwarf star of the exoplanet is much cooler as compared to our sun. According to the calculations of researchers, the planet is might even at a parallel temperature to that of Earth. Whereas, the range extends to resulted temperatures too warmer or colder than Earth according to the limitations of their statistics.
The red dwarf is a dynamic star, but it is likely exposing more radiation to the exoplanet than Earth receives from the sun. Ingo Waldmann, the lecturer in extrasolar planets and study co-author at the University College London, said that it is an expectation that several new super-Earths might found during the coming few decades. And it is an expectation that it is the initial discovery of numerous potentially habitable planets.
Also, the researchers have a belief that other elements like methane and nitrogen might also have existent in the atmosphere. Whereas, to reveal them more advanced telescopes needed for future observations. The principal investigator for ARIEL and study co-author, Giovanna said that their finding makes K2-18 b one of the supreme exciting topics for future study. More than four thousand exoplanets discovered until now, but the scientist does not know more about their nature and composition. After perceiving a large planets’ sample, they have a hope that they reveal the secrets about their evolution, chemistry, and formation.