'Water found for first time on potentially habitable explanet'

'Water found for first time on potentially habitable explanet'

'Water found for first time on potentially habitable explanet'

"This is the only planet right now that we know outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water, that has an atmosphere and that has water in it", Tsiaras told Scientific American.

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

The so-called "exoplanet" outside our solar system orbits a red dwarf star.

The exoplanet's mass gives rise to three theories: it either is a big ice-covered planet much like Neptune or has dense rocky surroundings.

"It's got water in its air but it's nearly certainly got no surface ... where you could find that water pooling as a liquid in lakes and oceans, and that's of course, what we need for life, at least as far as we're aware", he said. On Wednesday, astronomers announced the first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet named K2-18b.

"This represents the biggest step yet taken towards our ultimate goal of finding life on other planets, of proving that we are not alone", Bjorn Benneke, of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal in Canada and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

"K2-18b isn't'Earth 2.0′", he explained.

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.

They discovered that the unmistakable touch of water vapor.

By comparison, the percentage of water vapour in Earth's atmosphere varies between 0.2 per cent above the poles, and up to 4 per cent in the tropics. Their study, which appears in Nature Astronomy, also suggests that K2-18b's atmosphere contains hydrogen and helium. The team believes other molecules including nitrogen and methane are present in but as yet remain undetectable.

Water is a must in the quest for life, in part because it absorbs oxygen.

For this, you have to stay tuned to this space, as we at Fossbytes will let you know of all the developments taking place.

Nonetheless, Tsiaras said K2-18b could help determine, "Is the Earth unique?"

"With so many new super-Earths expected to be found over the next couple of decades, it is likely that this is the first discovery of many potentially habitable planets", said co-author Ingo Waldmann from UCL. Its star, a red dwarf, is considerably smaller and cooler than our sun, a yellow dwarf, and its atmosphere is also different than ours. ARIEL, slated for a 2028 launch, will canvas some 1,000 planets, a large enough sampling to look for patterns and identify outliers. But the light is sufficient to maintain a temperature which can allow the existence of liquid water.

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