Scientists have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a “super-Earth” exoplanet with potentially habitable temperatures. The discovery, which is being touted as a milestone, could have major implications in the search for life outside the solar system.
Experts from University College London identified water vapor in the atmosphere of K2-18b, which is 110 light-years from Earth. A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals a little less than 6 trillion miles.
“K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the solar system, or ‘exoplanet,’ known to have both water and temperatures that could support life,” researchers said in a statement. . .
“Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting. K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0,’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition,” said lead author Angelos Tsiaras, Ph.D. of UCL’s Center for Space Exochemistry Data, in the statement. “However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?” . . .
Data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016 and 2017 was used to study starlight filtered through the exoplanet’s atmosphere. “The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapor, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet’s atmosphere,” UCL said in its statement. (Read more from “Water Detected on Potentially ‘Habitable’ Exoplanet for First Time, Scientists Say” HERE)