Astronomers Discovered Water On ‘Potentially Habitable’ Planet That May Expand The Search For Life Beyond Earth

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k2-18b planetESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser/WikiMedia Commons

Astronomers have detected water in the atmosphere of a potentially habitable planet -called K2-18b in September 2019. It’s a plausible candidate in the search alien life. In the next ten years, the new space telescopes will be able to find whether this planet’s atmosphere contains gases produced by living organisms.

The scientific journal Nature Astronomy published details about this discovery. Prof. Giovanna Tinetti of University College London described the planet as “mind-blowing.”

“Until now, we haven’t detected water on a planet in the habitable area around a star where the temperature is closely compatible with the presence of life,” said Giovanna.

“Finding this habitable planet was an exciting experience,” said Dr. Angelo’s Tsiaras, member of the UCL team.

Other astronomers think that this planet could not support life. According to some analysis, a planet with this size and gravity can’t be habitable. Other critics consider the planet as a mini Neptune, and this class of planet is more massive than the super-Earth. Prof Tinetti, however, still believes it’s a habitable planet.

She said to BBC News, ” K2-18b is more likely to be a planet of rocks and ices, and it can not be classified as mini- Neptune. These planets are called ocean planets”.

“We don’t know if the planet has rock or ocean at its surface, but the presence of the water in the atmosphere is an excellent start.”

“The Earth stands out in the Solar System. It has water, oxygen, and ozone. If we find all of them around another planet far away from us, we should be cautious before saying that there is life on that planet. That is the reason why we have to understand hundreds of planets, and we hope that habitable planets will stand out. Then we will be able to make differences between the habitable and the non-habitable planets”, said Tinetti.

Dr. Laura Kreidberg of the Centre for Astrophysics at Harvard University doesn’t agree with this theory. According to her, the pressure and the temperature increase in-depth on this planet. The high temperature and the high pressure do not allow the presence of complex molecules like DNA.

Prof David Charbonneau from Harvard University pointed to the fact that this planet could not support life because its atmosphere was detected.

“If it had a secondary atmosphere similar to ours, it would be fragile, and Hubble could not detect it.”

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