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HST finds water vapor in atmosphere of habitable zone exoplanet

11 Sep 2019, 22:31 UTC
HST finds water vapor in atmosphere of habitable zone exoplanet
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An artist’s impression of K2-18b, a super-Earth orbiting in its host star’s habitable zone where water can exist as a liquid. In a first, the Hubble Space Telescopes spotted the molecular signature of water vapor in the exoplanet’s atmosphere. Image: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the molecular signature of water vapour in the atmosphere of a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone of its host star where water could exist in liquid form – a key requirement for the development of life as it’s known on Earth.
Known as K2-18b, the exoplanet is located 110 light years from Earth, orbiting a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo. While it is located in the star’s habitable zone, it is likely exposed to much higher levels of radiation than Earth.
Even so, “finding water on a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting,” said Angelos Tsiaras of the University College of London’s Centre for Space Exochemistry Data and first author of a paper published in Nature Astronomy. “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 ...

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