Water Vapor Found on Potentially Habitable Super-Earth
Scientists have detected water vapor and temperatures that could potentially support life in the atmosphere of a rocky exoplanet outside Earth’s solar system, according to a new study. The study published on Wednesday in Nature Astronomy says the exoplanet, known as K2-18b, is eight times the mass of Earth and double its size. Located about 110-light years away, the exoplanet orbits a red dwarf star close enough to receive the same radiation the Earth gets from the sun. The planet, whose skies contain hydrogen gas, was first discovered in 2015 by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.
“Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting,” Angelos Tsiaras, the study’s author, said. “K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?” The planet is “the best candidate for habitability” beyond our solar system, Tsiaras added. It is not yet known whether K2-18b is covered in oceans or lakes, or if it currently hosts alien life.