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Home / Science / Discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the habitat zone. It could be rain

Discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the habitat zone. It could be rain



Astronomers have discovered water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the habitable zone of his star with the Hubble Space Telescope. If confirmed, this is the first time we detect water on an exoplanet – a vital ingredient as we know it. The water was recognized as vapor in the atmosphere, but the temperature of the planet means that it can absorb liquid water on its surface when it is rocky.

The planet is called K2-18b and is about 110 light-years away. The planet is much different than the earth. It is a super-earth and twice the size of the earth and about eight times as massive. K2-18b orbits a red dwarf star and was first discovered in 2015 by the Kepler Space Telescope.

"It is incredibly exciting to find water in a potentially habitable other world than Earth."

Dr. Angelos Tsiaras (UCL Center for Space Exochemistry, CSED)

Astronomers at the Center for Space Exochemistry at University College London in the United Kingdom made the discovery in data from the wide-field camera 3 of the Hubble Space Telescope. Their findings are contained in an article published in Nature Astronomy titled "Water vapor in the atmosphere of the eight-earth mass planet K2-1

8 b in the residential zone". The detection is based on the spectroscopic signature of water in the exoplanetic atmosphere.

In a press release, first author Dr. Angelos Tsiaras (UBC Center for Space X-ray Data, CSED): "Looking for water in a potentially habitable other world than Earth is incredibly exciting. K2-18b is not "Earth 2.0" because it is much heavier and has a different atmospheric composition. However, this brings us closer to answering the basic question: is the earth unique?

The team behind the discovery developed algorithms and ran through the archived Hubble data from 2016 and 2017. They analyzed the starlight of the red dwarf star as it flew through the atmosphere of the exoplanet. They discovered the molecular signature of water as well as hydrogen and helium.

  Using Hubble data, the scientists analyzed the starlight filtered through the atmosphere of K2-12b and found the chemical signature of water. Image: NASA
Using Hubble data, scientists analyzed the starlight filtered through the atmosphere of K2-12b and found the chemical signature of water. Image: NASA

These results still need to be confirmed, but if and when, the implications are intriguing. Scientists believe that super-earths like these are the most common type of planet in the Milky Way. And red dwarf stars like the K2-18b orbits are the most common types of stars. They are also the coolest and most durable and the smallest. This suggests that there may still be many similar exoplanets.

Kepler discovered hundreds of super-Earths, planets with masses between Earth and Neptune, and NASA's TESS is expected to find hundreds more. According to the co-author of this new work, Ingo Waldmann, this is a good sign to find potentially habitable exoplanets.

In a press release, Dr. Waldmann: "With so many new super-earths expected to be found over the next few decades, this is likely to be the first discovery of many potentially habitable planets. This is not only because super-earths such as K2-18b are the most common planets in our Milky Way, but also because red dwarfs – stars smaller than our sun – are the most common stars. "

The planet has a very short length of year. One round takes only 33 days. The researchers believe that K2-18b is either a rocky or an icy planet. If it is icy, it may contain a large amount of water. However, these are only preliminary results.

"This study contributes to our understanding of the worlds beyond our solar system and marks a new era in exoplanet research …"

DR. ANGELOS TSIARAS (UCL CENTER FOR SPACE EXCHEMISTRY DATA, CSED)

According to the authors, the atmosphere may also contain nitrogen and methane, two life-threatening chemicals. Unfortunately they could not recognize her. This will have to wait for further studies that will allow them to estimate the cloud cover and the percentage of water in the atmosphere.

K2-12b is really close to its star, but because red dwarfs are not as energetic as Our Sun, the exoplanet gets about as much energy as the earth from our sun. The astronomers' calculations show that its temperature is similar to Earth's: somewhere in the range of about -72 to 47 degrees Celsius.

These are exciting results, but the prospects for life on this exoplanet are not great. Although the planet itself is in the habitable zone of the star, the star it circles around may not be very hospitable. Red dwarfs can emit many torches, and all of this energy can severely limit the potential for life.

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<figcaption> An Artistic Conception of a Superflare Event on a Dwarf Star Astronomers do not know how they do The host star of ive K2-12b is, but red dwarfs can be very energetic and unpredictable be nbar. Photo credit: Mark Garlick / University of Warwick </figcaption></figure>
<p>  On the other hand, the fact that K2-12b has an atmosphere at all is exciting, especially as it contains a lot of hydrogen. An atmosphere can protect a planet just like Earth from the radiation of a star. If the atmosphere of the planet is dominated by hydrogen, which is very light and easily dissipates by star radiation, this is an indication that K2-12b could be somewhat protected even though it orbits a red dwarf. </p>
<p>  The size of K2-12b and other super-Earths is also a factor for habitability. "Water can stay pretty long because super-Earths can keep their atmosphere for a longer time because they have greater gravity," said Giovanna Tinetti, a physicist co-author of the newspaper, in a press conference. </p><div><script async src=

"This study contributes to our understanding of the habitable worlds outside of our solar system and marks a new era in exoplanet research that is critical to the ultimate inclusion of the Earth, our only home, in the overall picture of the cosmos," said Dr. Tsiaras.

  Is the earth unique? There will not be a quick answer to this question, but studies like these are least helpful in helping us to understand the earth in relation to the population of the exoplanets. Picture credit: GOES-17 / NOAA / NASA
Is the earth unique? There will not be a quick answer to this question, but studies like these are least helpful in helping us to understand the earth in relation to the population of the exoplanets. Credit: GOES-17 / NOAA / NASA

This discovery needs further observations to confirm it. We also need better telescopes to study the atmosphere and atmospheres of other exoplanets. Two telescopes on the horizon will take on this task. The James Webb Space Telescope will have the ability to study the atmosphere of exoplanets. This is the next step in understanding all of the exoplanets found by Kepler and is found by TESS.

The ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote) of the ESA-Isolated Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) will launch in 2028 and investigate in detail the atmosphere of about 1000 exoplanets. ARIEL, together with the JWST, will give us a much better understanding of K2-12b and similar exoplanets.

  We have been waiting for the JWST for a long time. It can study the atmospheres of distant planets. The James Webb Space Telescope in a clean room at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Credit: NASA / JSC
We've been waiting for the JWST for a long time. It can study the atmospheres of distant planets. The James Webb Space Telescope in a clean room at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Credit: NASA / JSC

Professor Giovanna Tinetti (UCL CSED), co-author and principal investigator at ARIEL, said: "Our discovery makes K2-18b one of the most interesting targets for future study. Over 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered, but we do not know much about their composition and nature. By observing a large number of planets, we hope to reveal secrets about their chemistry, education and development. "

" Understanding how habitability develops in a hydrogen-rich atmosphere will be a very intense topic next 10 years, "Waldmann said.

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