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Scientists Find Water On 'Super-Earth' 110 Light Years Away

Scientists Find Water On 'Super-Earth' 110 Light Years Away

For the first time, scientists have found a planet outside of our solar system that has water on it.

Water vapour has been discovered on a 'super-Earth', which is located about 110 light years away. According to researchers it is twice the size of earth and over eight times its mass.

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The planet, K2-18b, lies in the constellation Leo, and orbits a different star - but scientists think it could plausibly support alien life.

According to the research team at University College London, the newly discovered exoplanet (a clever way to describe a planet outside out solar system) is said to have an atmosphere, as well as the correct temperature range for living things to exist.

Not home-sweet-home any time soon, sorry guys. Credit: Scimex
Not home-sweet-home any time soon, sorry guys. Credit: Scimex

It's much closer to its star than we are to the Sun though - this means it has shorter years, completing its orbit in 33 days while ours takes 365.

The equipment they're currently using can only measure the basics, including how far away it is, its mass and the temperature of its surface.

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However, UCL is developing much more sophisticated tools that have so far been able to translate data from the Hubble Space Telescope. This has enabled them to find out that it has the molecule signatures of water vapour.

The scientists think K2-18b has anywhere between 0.01 percent and 50 percent water in its atmosphere.

The Hubble Space Telescope was used to collect data. Credit: NASA
The Hubble Space Telescope was used to collect data. Credit: NASA

Dr Angelos Tsiaras, who is part of the team at UCL's Centre for Space Exochemistry Data, said: "Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting.

"This is the only planet we know outside of Solar System that has the correct temperature for liquid water, making it the best candidate for habitability that we know right now.

"This study marks a new era in exoplanet research, crucial to ultimately place the Earth, our only home, into the greater picture of the cosmos. It brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?"

K2-18b is 110 light years away from earth. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
K2-18b is 110 light years away from earth. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

Within 10 years, new space telescopes might be able to determine whether K2-18b's atmosphere contains gases that could be produced by living organisms.

But don't get too excited by the prospect of us moving there. If we say that the fastest possible speed humans can travel in space is 20,000 km/hr, then the speed of light is 54,000 times that speed.

In other words, 110 light years would take roughly 5,940,000 years of travel, one way. I don't think we'll be upping sticks and invading K2-18b any time soon.

Featured Image Credit: Scimex

Topics: Science, space

Amelia Ward

Amelia is a journalist at LADbible. After studying journalism at Liverpool John Moores and Salford Uni (don't ask), she went into the world of music. Quickly realising that you can't pay your bills with guestlist, she went back to her roots. In her spare time, Amelia likes music, Liverpool FC, and spending good, quality time with her cat, Paul. You can contact Amelia at [email protected]

 

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