Science

A planet larger than Earth was found and can host extraterrestrial life

A planet larger than Earth was found and can host extraterrestrial life

Astronomers have identified a distant exoplanet as a "super-Earth" that has the potential to harbor alien life. "Things that are between the size of Earth and Neptune are more common than Earths and more common than Neptunes".

Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, who led the discovery of K2-18c.

However, not much was known about the exoplanet earlier, particularly about its composition, which is the reason researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Montreal made a decision to find out whether K2-18b is a rocky scaled-up version of Earth or a gassy object like Neptune.

Using data collected by the European Southern Observatory, researchers from Canada's University of Toronto and Université de Montréal were studying the mass and density of the little-known planet K2-18b, which was discovered back in 2015.

To measure the mass of K2-18b, Cloutier and his research partners used radial velocities of its host star measured by HARPS.

With the continual discovery of so many exoplanets, in particular those in habitable zones, Doyon said that he's anticipating future discoveries of worlds that could one day be habitable.

Both planets are orbiting the red dwarf K2-18 When the new WebSpace Telescope (NASA) spacecraft launches in 2019, the K2-18b will turn its lenses for the first time ...

They found that the planet is probably mostly rocky with a gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, only more significant, however, it may be a predominantly water planet with a thick layer of ice, so further investigation is needed.

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"So if we can detect that wobble, we can infer the presence of a planet, like this super-Earth, and we can actually measure its mass, which is great, because it tells you something about how big the planet is", Cloutier explained.

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", he says.

A study by the team revealed that the exoplanet, referred to as K2-18b, is located in a potentially habitable zone from its host star, which makes it a probable candidate for holding surface liquid water.

Wasp-18b's remarkably close orbit to its star and lack of an Ozone adds to the unfriendly environment of the planet which is ten times larger than our solar system's most prominent, Jupiter.

"And so we sort of know that, for this planet, it's got about the right temperature that it could have liquid surface water".

Engineers inspect the James Webb Space Telescope after cryogenic testing in Houston, November 19, 2017.

The Canadian-made Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectograph (NIRISS) is specifically created to probe the atmospheres of exoplanets, and Doyon said that K2-18 is at the top of the list.


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