Water, Exoplanet, Earth, Nature Astronomy, Giovanna Tinetti

Water, Exoplanet

Water discovered for first time in atmosphere of habitable exoplanet

Water discovered for first time in atmosphere of habitable exoplanet

11.9.2019

Water discovered for first time in atmosphere of habitable exoplanet

PARIS: Water has been discovered for the first time in the atmosphere of an exoplanet with Earth -like temperatures that could support life as we ...

Eight times the mass of Earth and twice as big, K2-18b orbits in its star's"habitable zone" at a distance - neither too far nor too close - where water can exist in liquid form, they reported in the journal Nature Astronomy.

"This planet is the best candidate we have outside our solar system" in the search for signs of life, co-author Giovanna Tinetti, an astronomer at University College London, told AFP.

Most exoplanets with atmospheres are giant balls of gas, and the handful of rocky planets for which data is available seem to have no atmosphere at all.

Even if they did, most Earth-like planets are too far from their stars to have liquid water or so close that any H2O has evaporated.

Working with spectroscopic data captured in 2016 and 2017 by the Hubble Space Telescope, Tsiaras and his team used open-source algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b's atmosphere.

By comparison, the percentage of water vapour in Earth's atmosphere varies between 0.2 percent above the poles, and up to four per cent in the tropics.

K2-18b orbits a red dwarf star about 110 light years distant - a million billion kilometres - in the Leo constellation of the Milky Way, and is probably bombarded by more destructive radiation than Earth.

The new generation of space-based star gazing instruments led by the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's ARIEL mission will be able to describe exoplanet atmospheres in far greater detail.

Read more: CNA

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