Scientists Say Newly-Discovered 'Super Earth' Could Be Hosting Alien Life

Ray Weaver
December 8, 2017

The team which conducted the study with data from the European Southern Observatory, also discovered that the planet has a neighbor. And in February, yet another science team announced the planet TRAPPIST-1 hosts seven rocky planets, including some that may be in the habitable zone. The analysis of the radial velocity measurements also helped them discover another planet revolving around K2-18.

Two years ago, scientists discovered the planet K2-18b, which orbits a red dwarf star, K2-18, in the constellation Leo.

The astronomers found that K2-18b has a mass about 8 times that of Earth. HARPS is created to measure radial velocities of stars, which are influenced by the presence of orbiting planets.

Experts discovered the distant exoplanet - known as K2-18b - is a flawless candidate for hosting other life and is made out of rock like Earth.

"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", said lead author Ryan Cloutier, according to a report in Phys.org.

While signals from the orbit of K2-18b appeared every 33 days, the signals from the other planet, which has now been named K2-18c, occurred every nine days. The researchers' data showed K2-18b is either a rocky planet with a small gas atmosphere (similar to Earth) or a water planet that has a lot of ice on its surface. It couldn't maintain orientation as well as before, but it's "K2" phase still allowed it to spot many exoplanets like K2-18b. "But with the James Webb Space Telescope we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it's a planet covered in water".

If that weren't exciting enough the team then realised that their newly discovered super-Earth wasn't alone and in fact had a neighbour.

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", said Cloutier. As per the researchers, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will play a significant role in finding out further information about this super-Earth.

It also turns away from his own sun that can accommodate life, water on its surface, that is, from where everything begins.

Wasp-18b's remarkably close orbit to its star and lack of an Ozone adds to the unfriendly environment of the planet which is ten times larger than our solar system's most prominent, Jupiter.

Cloutier collaborated with an global team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.

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