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Water detected on potentially 'habitable' planet for the first time

11/09/2019

Water detected on potentially 'habitable' planet for the first time

UK researchers have detected water vapour in the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet with habitable temperatures in a world first, which has been supported by funding from UKRI’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The planet, called K2-18b, is a ‘super-Earth’ at eight times the mass of our home planet, and is the only known exoplanet to have both water and temperatures that could support life. Exoplanets are planets outside of our Solar System that orbit a star – the same way the Earth orbits around the Sun.

The hunt for exoplanets has long-fascinated scientists across the globe, as finding a habitable planet outside of our Solar System could be the answer to whether life can be sustained on another planet.

The discovery, published today in Nature Astronomy, is the first time that water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet orbiting in its star’s ‘habitable zone’.

Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom said: “Space exploration is one of the greatest adventures of our time, and for decades, scientists and astronomers have scoured the skies for planets capable of supporting life. This discovery by UK researchers is a giant leap forward in this endeavour, opening a new world of possibilities. The secrets of our universe are out there, and I am enormously proud that our Government-backed researchers and councils are at the forefront of efforts to unlock answers to mysteries that have endured for centuries.”

Find out more about the work on the STFC news story: Water detected on potentially 'habitable' planet for the first time.


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