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Astronomers find water on a potentially life-supporting planet for the first time

The report reveals that about 50 percent of the atmosphere of the water planet may be composed of water. The astronomers are currently unable to check if the gases in the atmosphere support life.

  • Published: September 12, 2019 3:56 PM IST
Exoplanet with possibility of water K2-18b

Image credit: ESA/UCL


Astronomers have just discovered water in what appears to be a life-supporting planet. The planet in question, K2-18b is orbiting in the habitable zone of a distant star. The report reveals that about 50 percent of the atmosphere of the planet may be composed of water. The astronomers are currently unable to check if the gases in the atmosphere support life. However, the report noted that new space telescopes in the coming 10 years may be able to confirm the composition of the gases. If the atmosphere on the planet contains gases indicating life, the discovery will be significant.

Water planet details

According to a report by BBC, Professor Giovanna Tinetti from University College London termed this as “mind-blowing”. Tinetti added, “This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone.” For the people unaware, the habitable zone is the area around the star where the temperature is ideal for water. This ideal temperature allows the water to stay in liquid form on the surface. As per the details, it is located about 111 light-years away or about 650 million miles away from the Earth.

The distance means that it is way beyond the reach of humans as traveling that far is impossible. The only option left for astronomers and researchers is to wait for the next generation of space telescopes. The report shared some details behind the discovery adding, the team “looked through the planets discovered by the Hubble” back in 2016 and 2017. During this, they discovered some chemicals in the atmosphere of these planets.

As noted in the report, K2-18b was the only planet that “revealed the molecule signature of water”. This planet is “just over twice the size of earth with temperature ranging between 0 to 40 degree Celsius. The report reiterated statements from different scientists classifying the discovery as exciting. However, scientists are wary of confirming that this planet supports life. This is because astronomers can’t agree on which gases are definitive proof of the presence of life.

  • Published Date: September 12, 2019 3:56 PM IST