close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
AFP
September 12, 2019

Water discovered in atmosphere of habitable exoplanet

World

AFP
September 12, 2019

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 know it, scientists revealed on Wednesday.

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. "We cannot assume that it has oceans on the surface but it is a real possibility."

Of the more than 4,000 exoplanets detected to date, this is the first known to combine a rocky surface and an atmosphere with water. 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. Discovered in 2015, K2-18b is one of hundreds of so-called "super-Earths" -- planets with less than ten times the mass of ours -- spotted by Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft.

Future space missions are expected to detect hundreds more in the coming decades. "Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting," said lead-author Angelos Tsiaras, also from UCL.

"K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’," he said. "However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: is the Earth unique?" 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 found the unmistakable signature of water vapour. Exactly how much remains uncertain, but computer modelling suggested concentrations between 0.1 and 50 percent. By comparison, the percentage of water vapour in Earth’s atmosphere varies between 0.2 percent above the poles, and up to four percent in the tropics.

Topstory minus plus

Opinion minus plus

Newspost minus plus

Editorial minus plus

National minus plus

World minus plus

Sports minus plus

Business minus plus

Karachi minus plus

Lahore minus plus

Islamabad minus plus

Peshawar minus plus