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British Scientists Find Water for First Time in Atmosphere of Planet Outside Our Solar System

Researchers at University College London said Wednesday they found water vapor in a planet's air 110 light years from Earth

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British Scientists, Water, Atmosphere
A handout artist's impression released Sept. 11, 2019, by ESA/Hubble shows the K2-18b super-Earth, the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. VOA

British scientists say they have found water for the first time in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system.

Researchers at University College London said Wednesday they found water vapor in a planet’s air 110 light years from Earth that has temperatures suitable for life as we know it.

More than 4,000 exoplanets have been detected, but scientists say it is the only known exoplanet that has water, temperatures needed for life and a rocky surface.

It is not known if the planet, twice the size of Earth, eight times its mass, has water flowing on its surface.

British Scientists, Water, Atmosphere
British scientists say they have found water for the first time in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. Pixabay

But scientists say the so-called Super Earth is an ideal distance from its sun to conceivably harbor life.

The planet, known as K2-18b, was discovered in 2015 by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting,” said Angelos Tsiaras, lead author of the UCL report that was published in the journal Nature Astronomy. “K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ but it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?”

Scientists expect future space missions to detect hundreds of other exoplanets in coming decades.

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A new generation of space exploration instruments will be able to describe exoplanet atmospheres in much greater detail.

The European Space Agency’s ARIEL space telescope, for example, is scheduled for launch in 2028 and will observe some 1,000 planets, a sampling large enough to identify patterns and outliers. (VOA)

Next Story

Mars Losing Water Faster Than Expectations of The Scientists

The ExoMars rover will travel across the Martian surface to search for signs of life

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Mars
Mars today is cold and dry – a desert world -- but dry river valleys and lakebeds suggest that water covered much of the Red Planet billions of years ago. Previous research has also found that Martian water mostly escaped into space. Pixabay

Mars may have been a place brimming with water in the form of seas, lakes and rivers once but all of that evaporated into space as researchers now report that the Red Planet is losing water faster than expected.

Mars today is cold and dry – a desert world — but dry river valleys and lakebeds suggest that water covered much of the Red Planet billions of years ago. Previous research has also found that Martian water mostly escaped into space.

The gradual disappearance of the water occurs when sunlight and chemistry turn water molecules into the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that they are made up of. When they are broken down, Mars’s weak gravity is unable to keep hold of them and they disappear off into space, according to the study, published in the journal Science.

In the new study, an international research team, led partly by Franck Montmessin from French National Centre for Scientific Research in France, revealed that water vapour is accumulating in large quantities and unexpected proportions at an altitude of over 80 km in the Martian atmosphere.

The development was spotted using the Trace Gas Orbiter probe that was sent to the Red planet on board the ExoMars (Exploration of Mars) mission, run by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos.

Measurements showed that large atmospheric pockets are even in a state of supersaturation, with the atmosphere containing 10 to 100 times more water vapour than its temperature should theoretically allow.

“With the observed supersaturation rates, the capacity of water to escape would greatly increase during certain seasons,” the authors wrote. The researchers point out that seasonal changes were the key factors behind how water vapour was distributed in the Martian atmosphere.

Mars
Mars may have been a place brimming with water in the form of seas, lakes and rivers once but all of that evaporated into space as researchers now report that the Red Planet is losing water faster than expected. Pixabay

The 2020 mission of the ExoMars programme will deliver a European rover and a Russian surface platform to the surface of Mars. A Proton rocket will be used to launch the mission, which will arrive to Mars after a nine-month journey.

The ExoMars rover will travel across the Martian surface to search for signs of life.

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It will collect samples with a drill and analyse them with next-generation instruments. ExoMars will be the first mission to combine the capability to move across the surface and to study Mars at depth. (IANS)