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Potentially new habitable world discovered

Exoplanet K2-18b, located at a distance124 light-years from Earth, was discovered in 2015 in the constellation Leo in the orbit of the red dwarf star K2-18. After analyzing the atmosphere of the discovered object, scientists found traces of the presence of a large amount of water vapor on the planet, says the portal If we consider that water is the basis of life, then what are the chances for mankind to finally find those very long-awaited brothers in mind?

Exoplanet K2-18b by the artist

Can life arise on super-earth?

Planet K2-18b is a pretty interesting object forstudying. Rotating in the habitable zone of its star, the exoplanet is approximately 2.6 times wider and 8.6 times more massive than our home planet. Similar sizes put the discovered object between the Earth and Neptune, classifying the planet as super-earth. However, can any life arise in a place so different from the blue planet?

Despite the fact that in the solar systemthere are no planets with characteristics of super-earths, scientists give quite optimistic forecasts about possible climatic conditions on K2-18b. So, apparently, the planet discovered in relative cosmic proximity to the Earth has a thin, hospitable atmosphere and large reserves of water, so necessary for the survival of any living organisms known to us.

See also: Earth-type exoplanet discovered in the Goldilocks zone

In order to find out how much describedThe above theory is true, researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed data on the composition of the atmosphere of the exoplanet. During the simulation, it was found that the outer shell of K2-18b is rich in hydrogen and contains a large amount of water vapor. In addition, it was found that methane and ammonia are also present in the planet’s atmosphere, but in much smaller quantities than previously thought.

Comparison of the sizes of the Earth and exoplanets K2-18b

Although most are found to datesuper-earths are gas mini-Neptunes without the presence of any solid surface, the characteristics of the new exoplanet show that it is a kind of exception to this rule. So, indicators of hydrogen that are important for the development of life indicate that its component fraction does not exceed 6 percent of the total mass of the planet, which can be pretty good news for local organics, if one, of course, exists there.

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Due to the fact that currently available inAt the disposal of earthlings, the equipment does not allow detailed observation of objects extremely distant from the Earth, the only technique that allows us to even imagine the exoplanet found is the so-called transit method. The essence of the technique lies in the fact that a planet passing by its luminosity darkens a little the glow of the host star, thereby betraying its presence in orbit. As you can guess, the application of this method can hardly tell us about the characteristics of the discovered world. However, even in this case, scientists were able to find a way out: by studying the spectrum of the upper atmosphere of the exoplanet during transit, we can find the chemical elements present in the air shell of an object remote for many tens, hundreds and even thousands of light years from us. The application of this technique made it possible to find out the approximate composition of the next “Earth double”. So, most of the scenarios developed in the course of the study portray the planet K2-18b as a completely water world with fairly pleasant indicators of atmospheric pressure and temperature.

Planet K2-18b may turn out to be a completely water world

Matthew Nixon, one of the authors of the study,argues that the discovery of a super-earth with similar characteristics can be of great help in finding potentially inhabited objects. So, if previously the super-earths were not usually considered as places where life can arise and evolve, then the world K2-18b can refute this rule. If the results of further studies prove the veracity of such a bold theory, then the stony super-earths that are quite common in the Universe may become one of the most preferred candidates for habitability, and the planet discovered in the constellation Leo risks becoming one of the objects of close attention from Earth astronomers.

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