'Super-Earth' that may host life found

08 December, 2017, 01:25 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Astronomers spot ‘scaled-up version of Earth’ which could host alien life

The two new super-Earths orbit a red-dwarf star around 111 light years away.

"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", said Ryan Cloutier, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, Canada, and who was the lead author of the research, in a statement published on Tuesday.

Astronomers took a second look at an exoplanet and discovered it probably is a super-Earth. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet". A recently discovered planet named Super Earth unveiling that it could hold numerous critical components of alien life. The planet's rocky structure and distance from its star, making it an essential candidate for life as we understand it. It's about 2.5 times bigger than Earth, but eight times more massive.

Based on the discoveries related to K2-18b so far, it could be an exoplanet that may possibly host extraterrestrial life. However, K2-18c doesn't really have a favourable atmosphere for life to thrive in it, as it's much closer to its star, being too hot to be habitable. To do so, researchers used the La Silla Observatory in Chile, pulling data sets from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), which can detect even very tiny planets that surround stars. They measured radial velocities of stars, which can reveal the existence of planets located around the measured stars.

Ryan Cloutier, of the University of Montreal, said: "Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting".

It was while studying those tiny movements of the star that something interesting was discovered: the star wasn't wobbling as it should if there was just one planet.

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"So you go, what the heck's that thing at nine days?" Kepler was unable to spot it as it was on an inclined plane and didn't pass in front of the star.

And the exciting discovery doesn't end there.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019, will be instrumental in collecting a range of data for studying the solar system, early universe and exoplanets. Water, as we know it, is a key component for the possibility of life. "But with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it's a planet covered in water".

NASA has dubbed the instrument "the premier observatory of the next decade".

"I can't wait", he said. It couldn't maintain orientation as well as before, but it's "K2" phase still allowed it to spot many exoplanets like K2-18b.



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