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Water found on potentially habitable planet

Date: 13 September 2019 Tags: Space

Issue

Astronomers for the first time have discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet having Earth-like temperatures that could support life.

 

Details

  • K2-18b is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System which is known to have both water and temperatures that could be potentially habitable.

  • The planet orbits the cool dwarf star K2-18, which is about 110 light years from Earth in the Leo constellation.

  • The discovery is the first successful atmospheric detection for an exoplanet orbiting in its star’s ‘habitable zone’, at a distance where water can exist in liquid form.

  • The team used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the ESA/NASA 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.

  • Further studies can determine the amount of atmospheric moisture and cloud coverage.

 

Hubble telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.

 

Goldilocks zone

 The goldilocks zone or  habitable zone, is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure . This marks the region where a life can exist.