Super Earth May Possibly Host Alien Life, According to Study

The new study also found that K2-18b has a neighbour which has been named K2-18c. The data used by the researchers came from the ESO's 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile

They orbit a red dwarf star 111 lightyears away - or 625,000,000,000,000,000 miles away - in the Leo constellation. 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.

With more than 3,000 exoplanets confirmed by NASA at this point, you might wonder what's so special about finding another one-but it's an incredibly rare phenomenon to confirm an exoplanet, let alone to find two super-Earths sitting right next to each other light years away from Earth. After figuring out the mass measurements of the planet, the team of researchers successfully established the fact that K2-18b is either largely a water planet with a thick ice-layer over it or it is essentially a rocky planet with a compact atmosphere full of gases, just like that of Earth, but larger in size.

"Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting", Ryan Cloutier, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, said in a news release.

In the case of the ESO, the data was collected using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on a telescope in Chile.

Called K2-18c, the newly discovered exoplanet is much closer to its host star than its already known neighbor. On top of this, the team also discovered that this planet-K2-18b-has another, similar world hiding behind it.


"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", said Cloutier.

JWST is NASA's successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and is now scheduled to be launched in spring 2019. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge-having flawless conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist. "But with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it's a planet covered in water", said the lead author.

University of Montreal Professor René Doyon added: "There's a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at". Sitting too close to its star, meaning the surface is probably too hot to support life.

Although K2-18b was actually discovered back in 2015, it is only now that researchers have been able to identify whether it was in fact a larger version or Earth or an inhabitable gassy planet like Neptune. James Webb Space Telescope is created to observe some of the most distant events and object in the cosmos in the most exceptional clarity.

The Canadian-made Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectograph (NIRISS) is specifically created to probe the atmospheres of exoplanets, and Doyon said that K2-18 is at the top of the list.

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