Strange giant planet with three stars discovered
Scientists identified an exoplanet that may have the right conditions to sustain life. The alien planet is located in the habitable zone of its parent star.
( Yuri_B | Pixabay )
A planet in the distant star system K2-1
The exoplanet, called K2-18b, is located in a potentially habitable zone of its host star, which makes it a likely candidate to maintain surface liquid water.
Liquid surface water is an important element required to harbor any form of life. Based on the findings related to K2-18b so far, it could be an exoplanet that could possibly harbor extraterrestrial life.
That's not all, the team of researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada and the University of Texas in the United States, which conducted the study with data from the European Southern Observatory, also discovered that the planet has a neighbor. Both exoplanets orbit K2-18, a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo about 111 light-years away.
Next, the research team wanted to know if K2-18b was a rocky planet like Earth or a gaseous one like Neptune. To do this, the scientists first had to analyze the mass of the exoplanet with the help of radial velocity measurements taken with the High Precision Radial High Speed Planetary Seeker. The Harps tool measures the radial velocity of stars impacted by the presence of a planet.
"If you can get the mass and the radius, you can measure the apparent density of the planet and that can tell you what most of the planet is made of," said study lead author Ryan Cloutier.
Experts could understand that K2-18b is primarily a planet, which is rocky and has a small gaseous or watery atmosphere with a thick upper layer of ice. At present, scientists are not able to distinguish between the two options; however, they feel that more data can be collected with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope.
James Webb Space Telescope
The JWST, which is lined up for a tentative spring launch for 2019, will help the team observe the planet's atmosphere and find out if it is covered with water or has a substantial atmosphere. The space telescope is aimed at obtaining a range of data to help scientists study the solar system, exoplanets and the early universe.
René Doyon, the co-author of the article, considers that there is a great demand to use JWST so he has to be careful when selecting which exoplanets to study. K2-18b, however, is now among the most exciting bets for atmospheric study. Therefore, it will be near the top of the JWST goal list, according to Doyon.
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