For the first time, scientists searching for extraterrestrial life have found an exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system) that has water. Two new studies found that K2-18 b, which lies 110 light-years from Earth and orbits a red dwarf star, has water vapor and possibly even liquid water clouds, as Space.com reports.
Space.com notes, “Previously, scientists have discovered gas giants that have water vapor in their atmospheres, but this is the least massive planet ever to have water vapor detected in its atmosphere. This new paper even goes so far as to suggest that the planet hosts clouds that rain liquid water.”
Angelos Tsiaras of University College London’s Centre for Space Exochemistry Data (CSED), the leader of one of the research teams, stated, “This is the only planet right now with the correct temperature and water outside the solar system. He added, “It is definitely not a second Earth … The only question that we’re trying to ask here, and we’re pushing forward, is the question of habitability. This is the planet that satisfies more requirements than any other that we know right now.”
The lead author of the other study, Björn Benneke, a professor at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal, told Space.com, “The water vapor detection was quite clear to us relatively early on. That’s in some ways the ‘holy grail’ of studying extrasolar planets … evidence of liquid water.” – READ MORE