A planet larger than Earth was found and can host extraterrestrial life
- Author: Jermaine Castillo Dec 08, 2017,
Dec 08, 2017, 1:48
Scientists, aside from two regular signals that they received every 39 days from the star's rotation and every 33 days from the planet's orbit, discovered a third signal which they received every nine days, which was the first indication that there might be another planet close to K2-18b.
It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that Cloutier noticed something unusual.
The planet could have water on it, like Earth. Since K2-18b is likely rocky, this means the planet could have liquid water on its surface, which is one of many conditions for supporting life.
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Both planets orbit K2-18, a red-dwarf star located about 111 light-years away in the constellation Leo.
"Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting", said Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student in University of Toronto Scarborough's Centre for Planetary Science.
They found that the planet is probably mostly rocky with a gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, only more significant, however, it may be a predominantly water planet with a thick layer of ice, so further investigation is needed.
"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", Cloutier said.
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The astronomical discovery was made by researchers from the University of Texas and Montreal, who saw that a neighboring planet of the K2-18b (K2-18c) might also be a second "supernatural", as they call it due to similarities with our planet.
"So even if you will never surrender on K2-18b, its discovery allows us to have a more accurate idea of the number of habitable planets in the universe".
Current technology prevents us from being able to definitively say which one it is but the fact that it could be either is a huge leap forward in our understanding of this distant solar system. And that will rely on the next generation of space telescope, the James Webb, set to launch in 2019.
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Study co-author Professor René Doyon, also from the University of Montreal, added: "There's a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at".
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