In a study published 11 September 2019, researchers detected water vapour in the atmosphere of exoplanet K2-18b. This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. Image credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
Astronomers are finding more and more alien worlds that may be capable of supporting Earth-like life, but none of these exoplanets so far are carbon copies of our home world.
The newest exciting find involves K2-18 b, a planet about 110 light years from Earth that NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovered in 2015.
K2-18 b lies in its parent star’s “habitable zone,” the range of distances that could support the existence of liquid water on a world’s surface. Two teams of scientists announced this week that they’ve found water vapour in this world’s air — a big milestone in the search for alien life.
“This is the only planet right now with the correct temperature [for Earth-like life] and water outside the Solar System,” Angelos Tsiaras of University College London’s Centre for Space Exochemistry Data (CSED), the leader of one of the research teams, told reporters during a teleconference on 10 September 2019.
Tsiaras and his colleagues published their results on ...