Water, temperature right for life at another star’s planet

In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life. | @AP

12.9.2019

In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life. | AP

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life.

This artist’s rendering provided by University College London Centre for Space Exochemistry Data researchers shows Exoplanet K2-18b, foreground, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. On Wednesday, the scientists announced they discovered water on the planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life. (M. Kornmesser/ESA/Hubble via AP)

It’s the only exoplanet known so far to have both water and temperatures needed for life, the University College London team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday. But lead author Angelos Tsiaras stressed, “This is definitely not a second Earth.”

“This represents the biggest step yet taken toward our ultimate goal of finding life on other planets, of proving that we are not alone,” the study’s lead astronomer, Bjorn Benneke of the University of Montreal, said in a statement.

The results are doubly exciting, Tsiaras noted, given this is not only the first Super Earth with water detected in its atmosphere but the planet also resides within the habitable zone of its star.

For now, scientists know K2-18b takes 33 days to orbit its star, so one year there is one month here. At this distance, temperatures range from minus-100 degrees to 116 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 73 degrees to 47 degrees Celsius.)

The surface, meanwhile, could be wet or dry. The London data suggest water vapor makes up anywhere between 0.01% and 50% of the atmosphere — “quite a big range,” Waldmann acknowledged. Either way, given the planet’s mass, it would be difficult to walk on the surface.

Read more: Inquirer

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